EXPERTS IN Egypt and Japan are using DNA analysis on the mummy of King Tutankhamun in an attempt to solve one of ancient Egypt's great mysteries - who exactly he was.
Although the magnificent contents of his tomb, including his golden mask, have made him one of Egypt's most famous pharaohs, very little is known about the boy king's birth, short reign or death while still in his teens.
Egyptian antiquities officials say the 4,500 items found around his coffin when Howard Carter opened his tomb in 1922 yielded few clues. They hope that modern scientific techniques might help to end a controversy about how he came to the throne more than 3,000 years ago.
Japanese experts from Waseda University in Tokyo will do the tests next month.
This will be the first examination of the mummy in more than 30 years. It has lain undisturbed in its tomb in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor since it was last X-rayed in 1969.
The Japanese, working with Egyptian antiquities officials and experts from the medicine and science departments of Ain Shams University, Cairo,will do similar DNA tests on the mummy of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, now in the Egyptian Museum, to try to establish Tutankhamun's parentage. Amenhotep III is the father of Akhenaton, whom Tutankh-amun is thought to have succeeded when he was nine or 10. But the exact relationship between Akhenaton, Amenhotep and Tutankhamun is still the subject of intense debate.
Gaballah Ali Gaballah, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Akhenaton, who married Queen Nefertiti, is only ever depicted with daughters, suggesting Tutankhamun may be Akhenaton's son by another woman, or his brother.
"Since Howard Carter opened Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922, there've been squabbles about his lineage," Mr Gaballah said. "We want to know once and for all if there was a blood relationship between Amenhotep III and Tutankhamun and we're hoping DNA can provide a conclusive answer. If this succeeds, it'll open up all sorts of possibilities for determining lineage in ancient Egypt."
But DNA testing on mummies is still in its infancy. …