Rare Genes from Ancient DNA


king tut mask rare geneAuthentic sequences from the ancient human past are a rarity in the world of DNA testing. But when a team of archeologists put the mummies of King Tut and his immediate family on the operating table in 2010, they were successful in deriving almost complete DNA profiles for the boy king and others in the Amarna dynasty that ruled Egypt more than three thousand years ago. Now three of the DNA signatures of Egyptian pharoahs from that famous forensic study by Zahi Hawass and the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo–plus others newly discovered–are available as part of a commercial direct-to-the-consumer autosomal DNA testing panel.

In October 2012, DNA Consultants launched its Rare Genes from History Report. Based on a customer’s DNA fingerprint or autosomal profile, the additional analysis sells for $289. It compares your laboratory results with 26 rare alleles or ancestry markers whose trail has been traced through world history and evolving population changes by the company’s statisticians.

Take the Thuya Gene, for instance. Like most of the other Rare Genes from History, it has an African origin in deep time. But it experienced its greatest expansion in ancient Egypt, where it was carried by the queens of Upper and Lower Egypt and High Priestesses of the temples. It was reported in the profile of Queen Thuya’s mummy, and we can see that she passed it to her children, grandchildren and descendants. King Tut was a great-grandson and has it, according to the new forensic evidence.

Today, as many as one-fourth of all people on earth would test positive for the Thuya Gene. It is twice as common in Somalia as outside Africa and is found in 40% of Muslim Egyptians.

That’s not so rare after all, but unsurprising. Egyptian civilization lasted for three thousand years and sowed the seed of its peoples and ideas throughout the world. We can imagine that Autosomal Thuya started out in East Africa about 100,000 years ago, and that her descendants were prominent in the first out-of-Africa group as well as in the Middle Easterners who helped spread agriculture, animal husbandry, religion and settled town life to Europe.

The spirit of Thuya lives on in 27% of Jews who have been tested in academic studies. Extrapolating to world population figures, that’s nearly 400,000 people, about evenly divided between the United States and Israel.

See also “Prelaunch of New Autosomal Products” (August 26, 2012)
“Rare Genes from History” (webpage)
Rare Genes from History Panel Now Available for $99.00

The classic DNA study by the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo, Egypt is: Hawass Z, Gad YZ, Ismail S, et al. Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family. JAMA. 2010;303(7):638-647. The feat by scientists has also been featured on Discovery Channel

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