Archive for the ‘Egyptology’ Category

Secrets of the Egyptian Tombs Badly in Need of Espionage

February 23, 2010 27 comments

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities was present the 1st of June, 2009 at the inauguration by Cairo University of a new DNA lab to find clues of mummies’ family links.

“It is very important not to use the same lab to analyze the DNA of living and dead people as there may be confusion in the results,” Dr Hawass said. “I used to be against the DNA tests for mummies, because it was done by foreigners, and the mix of DNA of the dead and the alive could lead to inaccurate results” (Chinaview).

Nefertiti, the sister of Akhenaten was also his wife.

An interesting comment, that makes me wonder if Tutankhamun was already sampled before by foreigners, either or not within their own compounds when testing started in 2008, and if the first results were rejected for the reason of an alleged contamination by foreign genes – i.e. western genes. Now the first paleogenetic results come out we should expect that any risk of western contamination is properly dealt with, since the tests were done exclusively by their own people. However, certain irregularities in the divulgation of the results are causing the word to be spread that “western contamination” was possibly meant in the broadest sense, including historical facts. Valuable information is left in the drawer, and this time it ain’t extraterrestrial evidence. Come hither and behold an example of successful Internet espionage.

The 17th of February 2010, The Independent was not the only newspaper to come up with an article on the valuable results that were published by the team of Zahi Hawass to reveal ancestry and pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family:

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association today, was carried out by a team of archaeologists led by Dr Zahi Hawass, one of the world’s leading Egyptologists. Its aim was to determine the relationships between 11 royal mummies of the New Kingdom, looking for common features which might have been caused by inherited disorders or infectious diseases.

The genetic investigation was successful in attesting malaria (plasmodium falciparum) by tests on genes STEVOR, AMA1 and MSP1, and also resulted into rejection of some genetic diseases that were previously suspected. Most importantly, genetic testing resulted in the identification of family members of the young pharaoh:

More than 55 bone biopsies were used to elucidate the individual relationships of 18th-dynasty individuals, with the result that several of the anonymous mummies or those with suspected identities are now able to be addressed by name. These include KV35EL, who is Tiye, mother of Akhenaten and grandmother of Tutankhamun, and the KV55 mummy,who is most probably Akhenaten, father of Tutankhamun (Figure 2, eAppendix, and online interactive kinship analysis and pedigree). The latter kinship is supported in that several unique anthropological features are shared by the 2 mummies and that the blood group of both individuals is identical.

Most probably Akhenaten?? To prove KV55 as Akhenaten, they have to claim a much older age for the remains than has been attested in 3 full body examinations (1931, 1966 and 2000) to make the age be old enough. This Hawass pet theory seems to rely upon the idea that his successor Smenkhkare simply didn’t exist, what few experts are ready to accept. It has all appearance Hawass is eager to have his version in Wikipedia as the Mainstream Absolute Truth for Dummies, since this is what he achieved. However, what everybody in the world of genetic genealogy is eager to know, the way how Tutankhamun and the other pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty fit into the human family-tree as a whole, was not revealed. Even though the publication mentioned the investigation of the necessary genetic markers. A short explanation. One popular way to find out about the ethnic and geographic origin of a person is doing a male specific test. Genetic details of the paternal line may include a panel of Short Tandem Repeat, STR, markers retrieved from the male Y-chromosome. Such results commonly serve as a first approximation to a subset of (apparently) underpinning mutations, better known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), that are DNA sequence variations on a certain base pair. Somehow STR testing is considered more accessible, so up to now most genetic comparison involves balanced panels of STR, that produce a genetic signature referred to as “haplotype”. Now, biological clades may be determined by a unique range of SNP or “haplogroup” that is featured by a group of people having at least one common ancestor. It is commonly assumed a haplotype may give a reliable approximation to the haplogroup the tested person belongs to, thus to the genetic clade or even subclade that may reveal the genetic history of the tested person. At least in theory the ethnic and geographic origin of a person may be derived from this information.

The cited paper on Tutankhamun mentioned the investigation of sufficient STR markers to come at a valid approximation of the genetic profile, thus to the genealogic history of his family line. Explicitly mentioned where STR indicated by the following names: DYS456, DYS389I, DYS390, DYS389II, DYS458, DYS19, DYS385, DYS393, DYS391, DYS439, DYS635, DYS392, Y-GATA-H4, DYS437, DYS438 and DYS448.  However, the values of only DYS393 and Y-GATA-H4 were published. This already triggered a lot of irritation. Why objective scientists would withhold the world information like this?

The family united again after years of mummified solitude. Thanks to the genes!

The new Egyptian lab, which cost one million U.S dollars, happened to be sponsored by the American Discovery Channel, on the condition that the channel – according to Hawass – “will shoot what we will be doing.” Thus, once the word of genetic results from the Egyptian tombs spread, the internet community could do some startling investigations of their own, frenetically using screenshots of the free circulating videos already released. First there was some confusion about the use of control sets rather than actual data, but studying the screenshots with even more scrutiny it turned out that the graphs were properly labeled by “filenames” that clearly referred to Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. An unrelated sample was easily recognized. Even though the limited visibility of some of the screenshots may introduce an error, we can conclude that now there is an unauthorized agreement on the results being genuine and not some “sample” or default values. The haplotype can now be queried in Y-Search, a free database on internet for genealogical information.

The 18th Dynasty Haplotype corresponds most likely to European R1b-ht15.

These values already triggered discussion.  The Whit Athey algorithm clearly predicts haplogroup R1b at a probability of 100%. The rare value 10 at DYS439 is definitely an outlier, but in internet fora (DNA-Forums and Rootsweb) experts on the field, not all of them just enthusiastic and highly motivated hobbyists, speculated the haplotype most of all mirrors the Western European R1b-ht15 subclades, commonly defined by a fairly “recent” SNP, labeled P310. The ancestral counterpart of R1b in Africa (that is considered ancestral and in Africa typically identifies with SNP R1b-V88, contender for being a possible Hamitic marker) or the Levant, was readily dismissed for being an unlikely candidate. This means, the Y-DNA profile of Tut’s dynasty  presents characteristics that were never typical to Africa, the Levant nor Egypt. Instead, the current low occurrences of Egyptian ht15 are commonly attributed to the classical period and up to modern times, when European influences coerced on Egypt through Rome and other historic entities from that same direction. At least one similar haplogroup was found among Jews, whose corresponding SNPs are labeled U152 and L4 (downstream R1b-ht15), albeit a considerable genetic distance to modal values strongly suggests an origin that is older than the Roman Empire.

How a European haplotype, having possible Jewish connotations, could have entered the Egyptian royal house to begin with? This doesn’t look like an issue an Egyptian team would be eager to investigate:  Starting with the political and religious animosities between Israël and Egypt, being nowadays part of the Arab world. The biblical history of the pharaoh who promoted Joseph’s rise to authority (Genesis 41:39-46) and subsequent claims of an important role of the Jewish people in Egypt until Exodus, already kindled debate on the Egyptian influence in the origin of monotheism. The biblical account comes close to a complete takeover. Genesis chapter 47:

1. Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said: ‘My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen.’  2. And from among his brethren he took five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.  3. And Pharaoh said unto his brethren: ‘What is your occupation?’ And they said unto Pharaoh: ‘Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and our fathers.’  4. And they said unto Pharaoh: ‘To sojourn in the land are we come; for there is no pasture for thy servants’ flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.’  5. And Pharaoh spoke unto Joseph, saying: ‘Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee;  6. the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and thy brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell. And if thou knowest any able men among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.’

20. So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine was sore upon them; and the land became Pharaoh’s.  21. And as for the people, he removed them city by city, from one end of the border of Egypt even to the other end thereof.  22. Only the land of the priests bought he not, for the priests had a portion from Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them; wherefore they sold not their land.

Note the “land of the priests” should here have included Thebe, the prime powercenter of the 18th Dynasty. We don’t know the historical context of Joseph, though all we can say is that even biblical sources would be rather in agreement with an essentially Egyptian character of the 18th Dynasty! The genes of possible European and Levantine origin could have arrived into the Egyptian royal lineage by mere coincidence, but one important indication remains the same: the European-like Y-chromosome was around.

Akhenaten leads his family and nation to the only god Aten. Inherited from the Indo-European "bright one" Apollo/Belinus, having the Levantine Baäl/Adon as an intermediary?

Akhenaten, confirmed by the genetic investigation as the father of Tutankhamun, was probably the most remarkable pharaoh of the most remarkable dynasty. He patronized the highly appreciated art of his time and display a considerable zeal to establish the god Aten as the exclusive, monotheistic god of Egypt. In his book “Moses and Monotheism”, Sigmund Freud already proposed Akhenaten for being the pioneer of a monotheistic religion that later became Judaism. The course of events might have been slightly different now Akhenaten appears to be genetically closer to the Jews than he and the people of Moses (“child” in the Egyptian language) to the Egyptians. However, if Akhenaten indeed has an ultimate Hyksos background then his affinity to Canaan as the ultimate source of inspiration to his “monotheistic” ideas would be evident.

Other barriers to a neutral investigation may be found in animosities between the Jewish people and Euro-centrists, what for sure might initiate a new round of false claims and counterclaims concerning the Indo-European issue, especially in relation to Semites. Bottom line, however, is that oriental R1b-ht15 is most likely of European provenance. Even though it might have been around in the Levant for thousands of years, it rather points to European expansions than to that few attested strains of oriental R1b-ht15 being native to the region. If indeed 18th dynasty R1b genes would be confirmed being of the European type, this is bound to support traditional claims that concern a rather Indo-European character of the Hyksos invasions into Egypt. For sure the Hyksos introduced a Semitic element into Egypt, though the ultimate initiators of the most outstanding  Hyksos innovations, like the chariot, were always understood as Indo-European.
However, if so, we could find another barrier in the general dislike of Egyptology against the Hyksos, that have a terrible reputation as destroyers of Egyptian culture. Especially the 18th Dynasty, even though firmly rooted in the 17th Dynasty that was contemporaneous to the Hyksos period, had a reputation to uphold as liberators against Hyksos occupation since their rise to fame was closely connected to this nationalistic event. Tuthmose III, the great-great grandfather of Akhenaten, may have approached these former oppressors initially as far as Megiddo, where – suggestively – he already managed to force the Indo-European Hittites into paying tribute. The great-great-grandfather of Thutmose III was Ahmose I, who at the onset of the 18th Dynasty (he himself was a product of the 17th Dynasty, Thebe) made a career out of the subordination of the Hyksos pharaohs in the north. The (Hyksos) Rhind papyrus document, however, still refers to Ahmose by the inferior title of ‘Prince of the South’ rather than king or pharaoh. The 17th Dynasty and Ahmose may already have pertained to the Hyksos world, even though the chose to pursue a different policy, thus it isn’t at all that unlikely their royal lineage derived from the Hyksos, that themselves may relate to neighboring Anatolian or Hittite stock.
In a 1993 article, Helck pointed out that the Hyksos could be part of a sea invasion of Indo-European peoples from mainly Anatolia, bastion of Indo-European “Anatolian” languages like Hittite. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough of the Hyksos period nor the Hittites to confirm a close historic tie between both people on historic grounds.

The relevance of a possible Indo-European heritage, written in genes rather than papyrus, is that foreign influences of the kind may have extended up to the end of the 18th Dynasty. We already know that the Egyptian goddess Anat arrived in Egypt together with the Hyksos, and she was worshiped long after. Then why shouldn’t the same apply for Aten, the new sun god of Akhenaten? The Northwest Semitic Adon or Baäl (both “Lord”) portrayed next to Anat in the Ugarit Baäl cycle as her brother/lover.

Strange enough, the Ugarit Adon-Anat cycle finds a parallel in the biblical Adam and Eve: Adam and Aden are namesakes. Equally, Eve appears to have inherited some of the less admirable traits of Anat in her relation to men, and at least the Canaanite Anat had something with snakes. More importantly, another parallel can be found in the twin children of Zeus and Titan daughter Leto: Apollo and Artemis. Both being “powerful archers”, the question arises how close their cult could have been connected to the archeological remains attested in the eastern Mediterranean (Heyd), that were closely related to Bell Beaker – whatever the cultural interpretation. The Baäl-Anat cult was definitely unique in the Semitic world, a strong indication of foreign contact of a kind, that coerced influence on the borderland between Semitic and Anatolian cultures and along the sea. But were it the Phoenicians that accomplished the Mediterranean integration of mythology and culture, or did they build further on the work already done by others, like Maritime Beaker traders? Especially, when these people from the west, that must have carried R1b-ht15 gene markers, could be identified as the Indo-European avant-garde that had already arrived in the Levant.

The introduction of the snake-cult and the custom of deformed skulls in Malta coincided with the collapse of older Megalithic civilizations, from 2500 BC on, i.e. (Maritime) Beaker time. Popular science, like here Adriano Forgione, already noted that the megalithic temple of Hal Saflieni, Malta, featuring deformed doliocephal skulls of a culture that identified with the snake, could supply an ideal link to the east. The genetic investigation of Hawass proved the exaggerated elongated head in the portrayal of Akhenaten in sculptures and carvings, and also his female appearance, to be fully cultural (one reason why the mummy of Akhenaten was never fully recognized before).

In an Indo-European context, snakes typically relate to the underworld. In this specific form this mythological element didn’t make it to Egypt, but it can be recognized in the Levant. Here the Anet cult is closely associated to Astarte, as though the different goddesses personified a host of contradictory female aspects, united into one single divine principle. In Indo-European mythology this multiple identifications are more common, especially in the reconstructed mother-cult of the triple-goddess. Note that the Celtic goddess Brigit has also been identified as a triple goddess and she was associated with the snake. Possibly the underpinning theme was general and wide-spread in Indo-European cultures. In Greek mythology the snake represented the chthonic power connected with the Goddess of Earth, the animal was sacred to Demeter, was depicted on the shield of the goddess Athena, and Artemis send Admitos snakes to his wedding bed. A Mediterranean Diana cult might have traveled together with the Beaker culture, to leave behind a trail of related cults of goddesses that may all derive from the same stem, including names like the Egyptian Neith, Ankh, the Phoenician Tanat and Anat and the Greek goddess Athena. Conform the current version of the Dutch view concerning Beaker stratification, this Mediterranean Beaker agent, despite of having an originally northern (Corded Ware/TRB horizon) connotation,  had direct Iberian (thus most likely R1b-ht15) precedences. Since Beaker cultures in the Mediterranean region seem to correlate in particular to Celto-Italic cultures, this would be the particular Indo-European branch to look for in the Hyksos homelands and the Levant. Also in Greece, where this element could have been part of the substratum.

A Beaker connection would make the association of Baäl to an Apollo like god, i.e. the brother of Artemis/Diana, more likely. Note also that Apollo/Baäl has a Celtic counterpart in Belinus. A semitic etymology of Baäl may ultimately be proven false, or derived. An alternative IE etymology would be “the bright one”. This would be a suitable epitaph to Aten indeed, now this Egyptian god may correlate to the Canaanite god Baäl/Adon.

So now, what we can make of the Indo-European identity of this devine pair Baäl-Anat versus Apollo-Artemis? In an Indo European context, the themes related to the Apollo and Artemis cults are pretty universal. Apollo represents the sun, Artemis the moon. The line between Artemis and the Mother God is often hard to draw, but where the divine female powers of Mother Earth are benign to the snake, the male “Apollo” was not. There is a parallel between snake-mastering myths, like snake Pythus being subdued by Apollo, and dragon slaying myths, like Typhon being battled by Zeus. Those myths seem to derive from the same source and can be recognized as a common Indo European theme in myths like Sigurd killing dragon Fafnir (in the Sigurd stones depicted as a snake), Thor fighting Jormungand, Vritra “the enveloper” or world-snake beaten by Indra (India), In Hittite mythology, Illuyanka was a serpentine dragon slain by Tarhunt. As a salient detail, this kind of mythological snakes or dragons are generally imagined as a source of knowledge and foresight that can be accessed once the monster is slayed. Hence the oracle of Delphi and the revelations to Sigurd. The biblical snake, that thus may be a relict of the Hyksos ancestors that reached the Levant already during an early Indo-European expansion, offered his advice for free, having hostile intentions. The message: divine submission is essential for being trustworthy. The pursuit of Aten was to eradicate all other gods, since none can be trusted. Like JHWH and Allah, Aten was such a god that chose to be intolerant to other gods.
Note that the biblical monster Leviathan was actually a whale, and the Egyptian Seth that killed Osiris was rather a god than a monster and depicted as an animal that seems to unite a host of strange desert creatures (aardvark, donkey, jackal) except snakes. Apparently, the snake-dragon distinguishes the Indo-European mythology from others, and still the biblical theme of Adam-Eve-Snake seems to echo the Indo-European Apollo-Artemis-Pytho theme. The Dutch equivalent of the triple goddess Nehalennia even carried a basket of apples, even though her connotation with the underworld was invariably represented by a dog, no snakes.

Ramsund carving, depicting Sigurds victory over the world-snake Fafnir. Once in command he has access to knowledge and truth, like Apollo that subdued the snake Python and initiated the oracle of Delphi.

The duality between the Indo-European male-female divine powers was clearly mirrored in the brother-sister and lover relation between Baäl and Anat in the Levant, the presumed Hyksos homelands, and possibly even in Genesis’ Adam and Eve. The proposed genetic connection between Hyksos and the 18th Dynasty in Egypt strongly insinuates that much of the Levantine  “Hyksos” influence survived until Tutankhamun. Not just the goddess Anat, but also the “monotheistic” god Aten may link the whole Levantine region together, and thus, albeit secondarily, draw the whole Mediterranean into the Indo-European hemisphere. The consanguinity of the divine couple may have inspired the attested brother-sister marriage of Akhnaten and Nefertiti (mummy KV35YL), his parents.

And yes, a European haplotype of Akhenaten could shed light on all of this questions that concern the integration of people and cultures that apparently happened long before and independently from the Phoenicians. The issue is complicated and in need of new perspectives. Are we ready to deal with all available evidence? So far I can only hear silence. Let’s hope Hawass will come up soon with all genetic results that are relevant for history!


  • Zahi Hawass et al.- Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family, 2010, link
  • Othmar Keel,Christoph Uehlinger – Gods, goddesses, and images of God in ancient Israel, 1992, translated 1998, link
  • John T. Koch – Celtic culture: a historical encyclopedia, Volumes 1-5, 2006, link
  • Helck, W. – Das Hyksos-Problem, Orientalia 62.2 (1993) p. 60 – 66
  • Volker Heyd – When the West meets the East: The Eastern Periphery of the Bell Beaker Phenomenon and its Relation with the Aegean Early Bronze Age, 2007

Recommended reading:

Locations of visitors to this page

Categories: DNA, Egyptology, Indo Europeans