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Egypt to test fetuses from King Tutankhamun tomb

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Written on 5:46 PM by yahoo

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CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Egyptian scientists will carry out DNA tests on two mummified fetuses found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun to determine their link to the young pharaoh, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement Wednesday.

The face of Tutankhamen displayed in a climate-controlled case at his tomb near Luxor in Egypt.

The face of Tutankhamen displayed in a climate-controlled case at his tomb near Luxor in Egypt.

The two tiny female fetuses -- found in the tomb in Luxor as part of the 1922 King Tut discovery -- may be his stillborn children, the Council said.

The statement quoted Zahi Hawass, the head of the Egyptian antiquities, as saying that the tests will also try to determine Tutankhamun's family lineage, a source of ambiguity among many Egyptologists.

"All of these results will be compared to each other, along with those of the mummy of King Tutankhamun," Hawass said.

There has been no archaeological indication that the young pharaoh, who died around the age of 19 under mysterious circumstances over 3,000 years ago, left any offspring.

Scholars believe that at the age of 12, Tutankhamun married his half-sister, Ankhesenamun -- the third daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten by his wife Nefertiti -- but the couple had no surviving children.

Tutankhamun was one of the last kings of Egypt's 18th Dynasty and ruled during a crucial, turmoil-filled period.

Ashraf Selim, a radiologist and member of the Egyptian team, said the tests could take several months. So far, the team has carried out CT scans on the two fetuses and taken samples for DNA tests.

"We want to find out the truth and facts relevant to the history of these kings," Selim told The Associated Press.

Since they were found in King Tut's tomb, the mummified fetuses were kept in storage at the Cairo School of Medicine and were never publicly displayed or studied, Selim said.

Hawass has announced ambitious plans for DNA tests on Egyptian mummies, including tests on all royal mummies and the nearly two dozen unidentified ones stored in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. He has said the tests may show that some royal mummies on display are not who archaeologists thought them to be.

Last year, Egypt announced that archaeologists had identified the mummy of Hatshepsut, Egypt's most powerful queen and the only female pharaoh. But scientists later said they were still analyzing DNA from the bald, 3,500-year-old mummy to try to back up the claim.

There is some secrecy surrounding Egypt's DNA testing of mummies.

Hawass has long rejected DNA testing on Egyptian mummies by foreign experts, and only recently allowed such projects on condition they be done exclusively by Egyptians. He has never disclosed the full outcome of the examinations of Hatshepsut's mummy or submitted results for a test by second lab, as it is a common practice in a DNA testing.

This has raised concerns about the validity of the Egyptian results.

Abdel-Halim Nour el-Deen, a former head of the council and a leading Egyptologist said DNA testing on mummies thousands of years old is very difficult.

"It is doubtful that it could produce a scientific result to determine such important issues such as the lineage of pharaohs," el-Deen told the AP. El-Deen also criticized the Council for not making public the results of the tests already carried out.

"We haven't seen any of their results," he said. "Such announcements are good for publicity ... They sell well in the media.

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