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Manchester conference told: Tutankhamen fathered twins

01 Sep 2008

Two foetuses found in the tomb of Tutankhamen may have been twins and were very likely to have been the children of the teenage Pharaoh, according to the anatomist who first studied the mummified remains of the young King in the 1960s.

Robert Connolly, who is working with the Egyptian authorities to analyse the mummified remains of Tutankhamen and the two stillborn children, will discuss the new findings at the Pharmacy and Medicine in Ancient Egypt Conference at The University of Manchester today (Monday 1 September 2008).

Mr Connolly says: "The work carried out by Catherine Hellier in Norway and I suggests that the two foetuses in the tomb of Tutankhamen could be twins despite their very different size and thus fit better as a single pregnancy for his young wife. This increases the likelihood of them being Tutankhamen'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 Tutankhamen. The results confirmed that this larger foetus could indeed be the daughter of Tutankhamen.

"Now we believe that they are twins and they were both his children. The forthcoming DNA study on them by Dr Zahi Hawass's group in Egypt will contribute another key piece to this question."

Mr Connolly, Senior Lecturer in Physical Anthropology at the University of Liverpool's Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, adds:  "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."

Conference director Professor Rosalie David, of The University of Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences, says: "We are very proud to have Mr Connolly speaking at the conference and are extremely excited about his new findings. Tutankhamen 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 will continue to do so for some time yet."

More than 100 delegates from 10 countries, including the Director of the Cultural Bureau of the Egyptian Embassy in the UK and researchers from Egypt's Conservation of Medicinal Plants project in Sinai and the British Museum, are attending the conference, hosted by the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology at The University of Manchester, in conjunction with the National Research Centre in Cairo, Egypt, and sponsored by The Leverhulme Trust.

The event follows the successful Pharmacy in Ancient Egypt Conference held in Cairo in 2007.

The conference, the first international conference aiming to bring together the two elements of ancient Egyptian healthcare practises: pharmacy and medicine, will also hear how 70% of the pharmaceutical ingredients used in medicines by the ancient Egyptians are still being used today.

Professor Rosalie David's team and Professor Mohamed Demerdash have studied prescriptions written on papyrus, diagnosing and treating ailments such as back ache (treated with saffron) and rheumatism (celery). They are also studying medicinal plants used by Bedouin tribes to see if they are the same as those used by the ancient Egyptians, thus providing a link with modern times.

Professor David says: "Our work shows that the ancient Egyptians preceded the Greeks in developing Pharmacy. These were not magic spells but pharmaceutical products, some of which are still in use in modern times."

Other keynote speakers will discuss surviving craniofacial trauma, cerebral palsy, dentistry and diet in ancient Egypt.

Ends

Notes for editors

The foetuses have been stored at the Cairo University's Faculty of Medicine since archaeologist Howard Carter first discovered them in Tutankhamun's tomb on the west bank of Luxor, Egypt, in 1922. Egyptologists have long debated whether these mummies were the stillborn children of King Tut and his wife Ankhesenamun or if they were placed in the tomb with the symbolic purpose of allowing the boy king to live as newborns in the afterlife. Never publicly displayed, the two foetuses are to undergo CT scans and DNA testing to determine possible diseases and their relation to the famous pharaoh, and possibly identify the foetuses  mother. The results of these are due in December. The smaller foetus, about five months in gestational age, has only been examined by Carter in 1925. The mummy is less than 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) in height and is well preserved, according to Ruhli. The older, larger foetus is estimated to be between seven and nine months in gestational age. It is less well preserved than the other and measures 38.5 centimeters (15.16 inches).

The KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology at The University of Manchester is the first specifically designated research centre for the investigation of Egyptian mummies in the world. The Centre plays host to a multidisciplinary team of researchers and students experienced in many different areas of science, medicine and Egyptology and is a major resource for this discipline. Opened in 2003, the Centre represents the culmination of 32 years of research in this field at Manchester under the guidance of Professor Rosalie David OBE. See http://www.knhcentre.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/

The University of Manchester Faculty of Life Sciences, with more than 1,000 people involved in research, 1,700 undergraduate students and an annual total budget of £65 million, is one of the largest and most successful unified research and teaching organisations of its kind in Europe. See http://www.ls.manchester.ac.uk/

Robert Connolly and Professor Rosalie David will be available for interview from 12.20pm to 1pm on Monday, 1 September. To arrange an interview contact Media Relations Officer Mikaela Sitford on 07768 980942.