The lineage of King Tutankhamun from ancient DNA analysis

The news of the month, kindly posted to me by a friend, is that they have proved via ADNA that the mummy from tomb Kv55 is Akhenaten, son of Amenhotep III and king Tutankhamun’s father, and that the younger lady (KV35) is his mother. It also seems Tut died of malaria and suffered congenital deformities, which I’d guess were the result of incestuous marriages in the royal family. This means that the prior ageing of KV55 as 18 was way off.

This also mean that queen the red-haired queen Tiye (elder lady mummy) was the mother of Kv35 (using logic, they all have the same mt DNA), which might explain why they were found in the same tomb.

I’ve prepared a brief genealogy.


Known grandparents  

 Amenhotep III  and Tiye (whose parents were Tuya and Yuya)

     File:KV55 scull.jpg   

Known parents

Akhenaten (Kv 55)  and  (KV 35).

The actual name of KV35 uncertain but she has been suggested as Nefertiti, these were brother and sister.


 Tutankhamun, who appears to have also married his sister Ankhesenamun.

It would be interesting to see if the mummy in Kv21A is indeed Tut’s wife Ankhesenamun, as she is known to be the daughter of Nefertiti and Akhenaten, and this could give a definitive answer as to whether Kv35 is in fact Nefertiti.  Ankhesenamun has been identified as the mother of one of the fetuses from Tut’s tomb, so this might be on the cards for the future.

Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family
Zahi Hawass, PhD; Yehia Z. Gad, MD; Somaia Ismail, PhD; Rabab Khairat, MSc; Dina Fathalla, MSc; Naglaa Hasan, MSc; Amal Ahmed, BPharm; Hisham Elleithy, MA; Markus Ball, MSc; Fawzi Gaballah, PhD; Sally Wasef, MSc; Mohamed Fateen, MD; Hany Amer, PhD; Paul Gostner, MD; Ashraf Selim, MD; Albert Zink, PhD; Carsten M. Pusch, PhD
JAMA. 2010;303(7):638-647.


  The New Kingdom in ancient Egypt, comprising the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties, spanned the mid-16th to the early 11th centuries BC. The late 18th dynasty, which included the reigns of pharaohs Akhenaten and Tutankhamun, was an extraordinary time. The identification of a number of royal mummies from this era, the exact relationships between some members of the royal family, and possible illnesses and causes of death have been matters of debate.


  To introduce a new approach to molecular and medical Egyptology, to determine familial relationships among 11 royal mummies of the New Kingdom, and to search for pathological features attributable to possible murder, consanguinity, inherited disorders, and infectious diseases.


  From September 2007 to October 2009, royal mummies underwent detailed anthropological, radiological, and genetic studies as part of the King Tutankhamun Family Project. Mummies distinct from Tutankhamun’s immediate lineage served as the genetic and morphological reference. To authenticate DNA results, analytical steps were repeated and independently replicated in a second ancient DNA laboratory staffed by a separate group of personnel. Eleven royal mummies dating from circa 1410-1324 BC and suspected of being kindred of Tutankhamun and 5 royal mummies dating to an earlier period, circa 1550-1479 BC, were examined.

Main Outcome Measures

  Microsatellite-based haplotypes in the mummies, generational segregation of alleles within possible pedigree variants, and correlation of identified diseases with individual age, archeological evidence, and the written historical record.


Genetic fingerprinting allowed the construction of a 5-generation pedigree of Tutankhamun’s immediate lineage. The KV55 mummy and KV35YL were identified as the parents of Tutankhamun. No signs of gynecomastia and craniosynostoses (eg, Antley-Bixler syndrome) or Marfan syndrome were found, but an accumulation of malformations in Tutankhamun’s family was evident. Several pathologies including Köhler disease II were diagnosed in Tutankhamun; none alone would have caused death. Genetic testing for STEVOR, AMA1, or MSP1 genes specific for Plasmodium falciparum revealed indications of malaria tropica in 4 mummies, including Tutankhamun’s. These results suggest avascular bone necrosis in conjunction with the malarial infection as the most likely cause of death in Tutankhamun. Walking impairment and malarial disease sustained by Tutankhamun is supported by the discovery of canes and an afterlife pharmacy in his tomb.

Conclusion  Using a multidisciplinary scientific approach, we showed the feasibility of gathering data on Pharaonic kinship and diseases and speculated about individual causes of death.

According to someone (not me) who has been bothered to enter the Y chr markers as seen on the video, Tut is coming up as R1b. I’d have put money on it being something more like an E1 Y chr, or maybe J as an outside chance…R1b isn’t unknown in Egypt, (see Wood 2005) but isn’t exactly common. R1b appears to have entered Africa from Asia sometime in the Neolithic along with Afro-Asiatic, which is really all I have to say until I get a published source and more detail. Can’t get any detail on the mt DNA, unfortunately. 

For anyone interested, there’s a bunch of videos at the Discovery Channel site about this, with some good shots of Akhenaten in his coffin.


23 responses to “The lineage of King Tutankhamun from ancient DNA analysis

  1. Mathilda,

    Many East Africans have straight or wavy hair. It is burned red by the sun -bleached as they say. Hair colour is also effected by time. Your quest to turn East Africa European seems increasingly odd to me. As the East Africans I’m thinking of include the Qamhat Bisharin and Qamhat Sai’d from the old kingdom of Dotawa south of Aswan- and they have been in the same valley for the last seven thousand or so years- Has it ever occurred to you that East Africans that share genetics with Europeans are the progenitors of said Europeans rather than the other way around?

    • – Has it ever occurred to you that East Africans that share genetics with Europeans are the progenitors of said Europeans rather than the other way around?

      You guys keep insisting that- no it’s not the way it works. Read teh DNA papers, they are very clear that have been a lot of backmigrations into East Africa from the near East, a fact supported by the archaeology.

  2. …when they interbreed like that, they’re all

  3. Probably, based on the new DNA information, the ruling dynasty came from Anatolia, land of the ancient Celts.

  4. Dr. Zahi Hawass
    seem have to published his results in y-search
    see user 6RBET.

  5. Arun Nigudkar

    If you are organising my talks on ancient sciences gone in creation of Ajanta caves and Puru defeated Alexander in 326 BC, I have my own CD and pen drive. You need arrange for a screen and projector My Phone (022) 25212996 Mumbai. Good Day, Arun Nigudkar

  6. Does anyone know a) what Tutankhamun or the other mummies’ haplogrous are, b) why they have not been released and c) what the possible motive could be?

  7. Those Aryan Nations boys will get a lot of mileage out of King Tut being an R1b. I was hoping for J2.

  8. Tut and family’s Y-DNA STR values have been uploaded to

    Tut’s User ID is “ER7RQ” and the Theban Dynasty’s User ID is “UH2BK”.

    The SNP reported is R-M269, the common marker for Western and Northern European R1b.

  9. When it comes to those long dead Egyptians you will never get complete agreement on anything least of all phenotype or genotype. If it was all solved what the hell would all those folks fight over.

    The extreme form of reproduction practiced by those ancient royal Egyptians would be founder effects exemplar with no peers. Whatever the royal line’s haplogroup were, they are likely to be unusual for Egypt or any other place due to the the high degree of consanguinity. Ever group that has been endogamous or choosy with who they have children by or derive from a subset of a larger population, all have unusual frequencies of haplogroups, either very high of one haplogroup like Basques, Yemeni Arabs, Cohen Jews or have unusual traits like Basques again, Rh-ve, the high rate of lactase retention in North west Europeans.

  10. I am NOT an egocentric (Afro nor Euro) and must clear up rumors on King Tut’s DNA Y-haplogroup.

    The meme circulating about the alleged R1b Y-DNA results of King Tut is based on a Nat Geo video segment showing a DYS393 marker allelle of 9. If this represents his accurate number then there is a 95.3% probability of Y-DNA HG L , 1% for R1b and the remainder with various other groups according to Whit Athey’s HG predictor. There is no official nor published peer-reviewed release of any Y-Dna results for Tut.


  11. The Egyptian team for NG is checking the CODIS nuclear chromosome markers to determine maternal(8 markers) and paternal(10 of 15 markers) relations. Y-DNA is not useful for sibling, paternal or maternal matching but is mostly used for distant male line ancestry.


  12. Dr Melissa Joseph

    I see that the scientific pedigree of JAMA lends weight to the authors’ absurd logic in identifying KV55 as Akenaten, as it has been pointed out by Kate Phizackerley in an excellent anaysis at that KV55 cannot be the maternal grandfather of Foetus 1 and therefore cannot be Akenaten. Zahi Hawass has over-parameterised his data to shoehorn the results into “proving” KV55 is Akenaten by virtue of the genetics being consistent with the mummy being Tutankhamun’s father. Tutankhamun is indeed consistent with being the son of KV55 and KV35YL, but this does not identify either mummy beyond that statement, except that they are both also consistent with being children of Amunhotep III anf Tiye. This consistency in the gene loci would also be true for either of them to be descended from a sister of Tiye. Nefertiti must have been related to Thuya, because of the D7S820 13 and D21S11 35 alleles posessed by Foetus 1 and Foetus 2, which cannot have been transmitted via Akenaten, since Tiye did not inherit them.

    The data are very interesting, but there is a non-scientific agenda to make identification claims beyond the certainties to be concluded from gene loci comparisons. There has never been any historical proof that Akenaten was Tutankhamun’s father and it is sophistry to suggest a positive identification of KV55 as Akenaten when all that can be said is that the mummy could be Tutankhamun’s father. He is also more likely to be Smenkhare, especially from the usual anthropological mid-twenties estimation of his time of death. Tutankhamun does not need to be Akenaten’s son to suceed the throne; the virtue of Ankhesenamun being a daughter of the King’s Great Wife apparently legitimises him, as Meritaten previously legitimises Smenkhare. Another useful deduction is that Tutankhamun cannot be a direct son of Amunhotep III by anyone, including alternative history suggestions that he is via either Tiye or one of her daughters such as Sitamun. If anything, Tutankhamun is the son of Smenkhare, possibly by one of Amunhotep III and Tiye’s daughters, though not necessarily. Thus KV55 is probably Smenkhare, though he could also be the missing Crown Prince Thutmose, who seems to have historical record of gaining adulthood and thus cannot be the adolescent prince discovered alongside the Younger and Elder Ladies in the Amunhotep II (KV35) cache.

    The X-ray data does demonstrate that the family was inbred and were suffering from various congenital conditions, especially scoliosis, which appeared to originate in Thuya.

    Other than making certain logical deductions from all these data, the authors should not have made contentious statements regarding Akenaten breeding with his full sister, when it is completely uncorroborated. The family lines are obviously heavily intertwined, which is sufficient to explain the observations. It is really not important to absolutely identify Tutankhamun’s parents in order to reconcile them with known historical figures as the complete family set of DNA is unavailable.

    I also question the use of using earlier mummies as a genetic control as it has been suggested that Yuya or Thuya were descended from Nefertari-Ahotep and so a better one would have been using DNA from the 19th Dynasty, who are known to have no connection with the Amarna Kings.

    • I did actually wonder, as one age estimate on KV55 was 18, which would make Akhenaten unlikely.

  13. When is someone going to fire Zahi Hawass? And restructure the SCA into something more like a committee than a one man show, so we can prevent this kind of scientific pollution in the future?

    Also, I heard that there were not enough alleles tested to determine haplogroups on any of the mummies?

    Does anyone have more or more recent information?

    • restructure the SCA into something more like a committee than a one man show

      Well, I didn’t say it…

  14. A lot of people are afraid to go against this tinpot bureaucrat. Even Joan Fletcher keeps quiet.

    Only when people stay silent can he keep on with this unprofessional behavior.

    • Even Joan Fletcher keeps quiet.

      I believe she got kicked out of Egypt after daring to say that she’d identified Nefertiti with out allowing Hawass at it first. Can’t blame her for keeoing quiet now.

  15. …the high rate of lactose retention in nw
    euros comes from the tlaoc nomad deer age
    and goes on today over the northern eurasian arc. the basques are the original vitamin-
    deprived chthonic fire-drill nauatl(language)
    cavers, who outsourced to bithynia, c. 5k bc,
    to rejuvenate their stock(the turkish connexion),
    altho as recently as the 1930’s the cagotz=
    ca oztotl(N)=cave beings, of their population
    were isolated and bred among themselves.

  16. Bob Brier or “Mr. Mummy” stated last year that no ancient Egyptian mummy DNA has ever been sequenced. It appears to be smoke and mirrors hype.

    • Bob Brier or “Mr. Mummy” stated last year that no ancient Egyptian mummy DNA has ever been sequenced

      That will come as a surprise to the authors of the papers that have been published on mummy DNA- Paabo and Graver.

      Paabo sampled dynastic mummies, and Graver et al did Roman era mummies from Dakleh (upper Egypt). The first mummy ADNA was retrieved in the 90’s.

  17. @mathilda37

    Yes I’m aware of the Dakleh Oasis mummy study, he was referring to Dynastic era mummies.

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