DNA Tests Halted on King Tut's Mummy

ByABC News

C A I R O, Egypt, Dec. 13, 2000 -- Egypt has indefinitely postponed DNA testsdesigned to throw light on questions that have intriguedarchaeologists for years: Who was Tutankhamun’s father, and was heof royal blood?

The head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Gaballah AliGaballah, said Tuesday that plans for DNA tests on the mummies ofTutankhamun and his presumed grandfather, Amenhotep III, had beencanceled.

“There will be no test now and we have to see if there will beone later,” Gaballah told The Associated Press. He declined togive a reason.

Sabri Abdel-Aziz, the council’s chief archaeologist in southernEgypt, where the tests were to be conducted, said the Japaneseexperts assigned to the work had not been granted the requiredsecurity clearance. He did not say why.

DNA Tests Are Controversial

The announcement of the planned tests had sparked a controversyamong Egyptian archaeologists. Some said they were an unnecessaryrisk that might harm the mummies. Others said the results might beused to rewrite Egyptian history.

“I have refused in the past to allow foreign teams to carry outsuch tests on the bones of the Pyramids builders because there aresome people who try to tamper with Egyptian history,” the chiefarchaeologist of the Giza pyramids, Zahi Hawas, told the AkhbarAl-Yom weekly.

DNA testing of mummies has the potential to answer a number ofquestions about ancient Egypt — proving information on matters suchas family relations, marriage patterns and mixing of ethnic groups.But archaeologists caution that DNA testing has not proved verysuccessful and warn against over-reliance on it.

Gaballah said last month that the tests, aimed at comparingTutankhamun’s DNA with that of Amenhotep III, were his department’slast resort to end a long-lasting mystery.

Intense Interest in Minor Ruler

Tutankhamun ruled Egypt 3,300 years ago from about the age of 8to his death at 17. He succeeded Amenhotep IV, better-known asAkhenaten, and official policy at the time said Tutankhamun wasrelated by blood to his predecessor.

Many Egyptologists question whether Akhenaten really did fatherTutankhamun, although they widely agree the boy-king had some sortof royal lineage.

The tests were to have been conducted by a team from Japan’sWaseda University and Cairo’s Ein Shams University.

The first test was to be carried out at Tutankhamun’s tomb inthe Valley of Kings near the southern town of Luxor, and would havemeant closing the tomb for a few hours.

The tomb was discovered virtually intact by Briton Howard Carterin 1922. Its treasures provided invaluable insight into Egyptianancient history.

The second test would have been on the mummy of Amenhotep III,which is exhibited at the Egyptian museum in Cairo. Amenhotep IIIis believed to have been Akhenaten’s father.

A general named Horemheb largely ran the country during Tut’sreign. He and other generals were known to claim royal blood.