National Geographic : 2010 Sep
the Amarna kings, including Tutankhamun. Ironically, this attempt to erase his memory preserved Tutankhamun for all time. Less than a century after his death, the location of his tomb had been forgotten. Hidden from robbers by structures built directly above, it remained virtually untouched until its discovery in . More than , artifacts were found inside the tomb. But the archaeological record has so far failed to illuminate the young king's most intimate family relationships. Who were his mother and father? What became of his widow, Ankhesenamun? Are the two mummi ed fetus- es found in his tomb King Tutankhamun's own prematurely born children, or tokens of purity to accompany him into the a erlife? To answer these questions, we decided to ana- lyze Tutankhamun's DNA, along with that of ten other mummies suspected to be members of his immediate family. In the past I had been against genetic studies of royal mummies. e chance of obtaining workable samples while avoiding contamination from modern DNA seemed too small to justify disturbing these sacred remains. But in several geneticists convinced me that the eld had advanced far enough to give us a good chance of getting useful results. We set up two state-of-the-art DNA-sequencing labs, one in the basement of the Egyptian Mu- seum in Cairo and the other at the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University. The research would be led by Egyptian scientists: Yehia Gad and Somaia Ismail from the National Research Center in Cairo. We also decided to carry out CT scans of all the mummies, under the direc- tion of Ashraf Selim and Sahar Saleem of the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University. ree international experts served as consultants: Carsten Pusch of the Eberhard Karls Univer- sity of Tübingen, Germany; Albert Zink of the EURAC-Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy; and Paul Gostner of the Cen- tral Hospital Bolzano. e identities of four of the mummies were known. ese included Tutankhamun himself, still in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, and three mummies on display at the Egyptian Mu- seum: Amenhotep III, and Yuya and Tuyu, the parents of Amenhotep III's great queen, Tiye. Among the unidenti ed mummies was a male found in a mysterious tomb in the Valley of the Kings known as KV55. Archaeological and tex- tual evidence suggested this mummy was most likely Akhenaten or Smenkhkare. Our search for Tutankhamun's mother and wife focused on four unidenti ed females. Two of these, nicknamed the "Elder Lady" and the "Younger Lady," had been discovered in , unwrapped and casually laid on the floor of a side chamber in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35), evidently hidden there by priests a er the end of the New Kingdom, around . . e other two anonymous females were from a small tomb (KV21) in the Valley of the Kings. e architecture of this tomb suggests a date in the th dynasty, and both mummies hold their le st against their chest in what is generally interpreted as a queenly pose. Finally, we would attempt to obtain DNA from the fetuses in Tutankhamun's tomb---not a promising prospect given the extremely poor condition of these mummies. But if we succeed- ed, we might be able to ll in the missing pieces to a royal puzzle extending over ve generations. HIDDEN FROM ROBBERS, TUT'S TOMB REMAINED VIRTUALLY UNTOUCHED UNTIL ITS DISCOVERY IN 1922. A DECADE OF DISCOVERY Since 2001 the Society has supported the research of Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and a National Geographic explorer-in-residence. He is the author of Zahi Hawass's Travel Guide to Secret Egypt, forthcoming from National Geographic Books. Kenneth Garrett has photographed stories on Egypt for the magazine and collaborated with Zahi Hawass on six books.