In 1915, upon entering a looted tomb in Deit el-Bersha an Egyptian necropolis, a severed head was found in the corner. For over a hundred years scientists have puzzled over who this was.
A century-long mystery over the identity of a 4,000-year-old Egyptian mummy has finally been solved by the FBI.
Archaeologists worked out the tomb belonged to a governor called Djehutynakht and his wife, but were unable to decipher whether the head was male or female.
It took a forensic scientist at the FBI, using advanced DNA sequencing technology, to say definitely that the head belonged to the governor himself.
Odile Loreille, an FBI biologist, drilled into a tooth extracted from the skull, collected the powder and dissolved it in a chemical solution.
She then ran the solution through a DNA copy machine followed by a sequencing instrument. By checking the ratio of sex chromosomes, she was able to deduce that the skull was male.
The age of the head, and the fact it was found in a desert environment, made it particularly challenging to extract the DNA.
DNA, the molecule that contains our genetic code, breaks down over time and in warmer conditions.
The head had also been damaged by looters, who ransacked the tomb and destroyed the body in antiquity, and modern archaeologists while attempting to work out its identity.
Fresh attempts to identify it were made at the turn of the millennium when the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which stores the tomb’s contents, handed the skull to Massachusetts General Hospital.
In 2005 the hospital put it through a CT scan, then tried to test DNA extracted from a tooth four years later, but both attempts failed.
The FBI stepped in because it spotted an opportunity to practice advanced DNA extraction, something it sometimes does when solving modern crimes.
Source - Independent
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