Thursday, 5 April 2018

How the FBI helped crack a 4,000-year-old case

In 1915, a team of U.S. archaeologists excavating the ancient Egyptian necropolis of Deir el-Bersha blasted into a hidden tomb. Inside the cramped limestone chamber, they were greeted by a gruesome sight: a mummy’s severed head perched on a coffin. The room, which the researchers labeled Tomb 10A, was the final resting place for a governor named Djehutynakht and his wife. At some point during the couple’s 4,000-year slumber, grave robbers ransacked their burial chamber and plundered its gold and jewels. Djehutynakht and his wife are believed to have lived around 2000 B.C. during Egypt’s Middle Kingdom. They ruled a province of Upper Egypt. 

Museum staff concluded only a DNA test would determine whether they had put Mr. or Mrs. Djehutynakht on display.
The doctors and museum staff determined their best chance of retrieving DNA would be by extracting the mummy’s molar. For several years, other teams of scientists tried fruitlessly to get DNA from the molar. Then the crown of the tooth went to the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Virginia, in 2016.

The mummified severed head had indeed belonged to Mr. Djehutynakht.