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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bodies found in the tomb of 'boy king' Tutankhamun's tomb are twin daughters

The Funerary Mask for a Foetus is seen on display at the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition at the O2 arena in London

The foetuses placed next to Tutankhamun will undergo DNA tests

Two foetuses found buried with Tutankhamun may have been his twin daughters, an expert has claimed.

Professor Robert Connolly, an anatomist who is working with Egyptian authorities to analyse the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh, says that preliminary tests on the mummified remains of the two still-born babies indicate that Tutankhamun may have fathered them both. He will present the new findings at the Pharmacy and Medicine in Ancient Egypt Conference at the University of Manchester today.

Professor Connolly, who first studied the remains of Tutankhamun in the Sixties, said: “The two foetuses in the tomb of Tutankhamun could be twins, despite their very different size and thus fit better as a single pregnancy for his young wife [Ankhesenamun]. This increases the likelihood of them being Tutankhamun's children.”

“I studied one of the mummies, the larger one, back in 1979, determined the blood group data from this baby mummy and compared it with my 1969 blood grouping of Tutankhamun. The results confirmed that this larger foetus could indeed be the daughter of Tutankhamun.

“Now we believe that they are twins and they were both his children.”

Professor Connolly, a physical anthropologist at the University of Liverpool, said: “It is a very exciting finding which will not only paint a more detailed picture of this famous young king's life and death, it will also tell us more about his lineage.”

The foetuses have been stored at the Faculty of Medicine in Cairo University since the archaeologist Howard Carter discovered them in the teenage king's tomb on the west bank of Luxor in 1922. Egyptologists have long debated whether they were his children or if they were placed in the tomb with the symbolic purpose of allowing the famous pharaoh to live on as newborns in the afterlife.

The answer to this hereditary puzzle is closer because the two foetuses are to undergo CT scans and DNA testing to determine possible diseases and their relation to Tutankhamun. The smaller foetus is about five months in gestational age and the larger foetus is estimated to be between seven and nine months. The results of the remaining tests are due in December.

“We are very proud to have Professor Connolly speaking at the conference and are extremely excited about his new findings,” said the conference director Rosalie David, of the University of Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences.

“Tutankhamun is such an important figure in Egyptology. He was a fascinating character whose tomb and indeed body has given us so much information about life in Ancient Egypt, and it seems that he will continue to do so for some time yet.”

More than 100 delegates from ten countries will be attending the conference. It intends to bring together the two elements of Ancient Egyptian healthcare practices — pharmacy and medicine.