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The Shadow King
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Sothis
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 9:45 am    Post subject: The Shadow King Reply with quote

There`s another book on Tutankhamun out there called "The Shadow King", but before you start to either sigh or yawn or both let me tell you that it`s really worth a read.
Maybe it is due to the fact that the Author is not an Egyptologist but science journalist Jo Marchant who has among other a PhD in Genetics that there is a different touch to it. She does not present just a compilation of what is known about the mummy and what happened to it but she went to some lenghts to contact and where possible interview all the people who were at some point involved in examination, assessment or DNA testing of the mummy. She also tracked down Derry`s and Harrison`s handwritten notes on their respective examination of Tut`s remains that were never published with a few surprising results.
To give just one example, one passage in Harrison`s notes regarding his 1968 examination states that he noted that the toes on Tut`s left foot were little more than the skeletal frame with the resin on it and most tissue gone. When he commented on that one of the present workers told him that he had witnessed a member of Carter`s team holding a blow lamp on the left foot in order to melt some resin to analyze it. Almost incredible, but Harrison apparently did not question this statement. This could be responsible for some of the damage seen in the left foot, couldn`t it?

Another surprising find is a report of yet another examination of the two babies carried out by Sahar Saleem and Hawass (!) and published here

http://www.ajronline.org/doi/full/10.2214/AJR.11.6837
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Sothis
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry I have to send another post as the other didn`t let me finish.
The report I mentioned discount all anomalies previously seen in the larger foetus and diagnosed as Sprengel`s disease and spina bifida as post mortem damage. The left scapula (shoulder blade) is only raised because it has broken off the body and consequently moved up. Besides the left scapula is not smaller than the other which it should in Sprengel`s disease.
The open neural tube is also down to postmortem damage. There are good images in the report which clearly shoe the breaks.

Apart from that, the book reveals under how much time pressure some of the previous assessment were achieved.
Ashraf Selim for example says het got a phone call out of the blue from Hawass who asked him to assess the CT-images in one day. He actually refused but Hawass wouldn`t have that. So he sat half the night to do this job to try to unite the different opinions of the many experts who were involved.

Others are rushed by TV companies like the team around the Cooper/King 2002 docu. Boyer, Rodin and Grey complain that they had only a few hours to assess X-rays of Tut`s body and in the rush they took the resin that stuck to the upper vertebrae for fused vertebrae. So the idea of Klippel-Feil-Syndrome was born, and it didn`t help that they later published an academic paper explaining their error and stating that there is no evidence for Klippel-Feil-Syndrome.

There is much more to discover especially in the chapters on ancient DNA, so I would recommend to read this book to anyone.
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Lavender
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2013 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saw that Joyce Tyldsley had tweeted about this a few days ago. I'm excited to read it...the author's unusual point of view (i.e. NOT an Egyptologist) should make for an interesting read, as you noted. Thanks!
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 23, 2013 10:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Extraordinary book. Revelations all over the place as pointed out in the posts by Sothis. Also something about the part of the Tut unwrapped documentary, were the DNA sequences could be seen on a monitor, and which has spawned so many youtube videos and hatred. She says that scene was not "live" it was reconstructed and edited in for the broadcast. So I guess all the theories, from either side, must now be seen as void until the truth about those DNA tests is revealed. Armarna was always a tarpit, but I now think has gone through the looking glass.......
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Ankhetmaatre
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2013 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the rec, Sothis. I just finished it. Although grammatically curious in places, it was a good read. I found Marchant's balanced approach and straightforward narrative quite refreshing. Plus, her archival research was pretty top notch.

I knew that there were opposing camps on the subject of DNA testing on the Egyptian mummies but I didn't know why, exactly. I called a friend at Harvard who is a cell biologist and in the "skeptic" camp to see of she could clarify the situation a bit. According to her Svante's method is more accurate for ancient DNA because it greatly reduces the risk of "fly-by" contamination (or at least that's what I gleaned after about ten minutes of cell biology lingo). Though she was willing to admit that Gad, Fink, Pusch, et.al., did have a point in that their findings indicate different individuals. But she puts that down to wishful interpreting. Once a skeptic, always a skeptic, I guess. :p
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Sothis
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I`m glad to see that others seem to have enjoyed the book as I did.
Unfortunately Marchant does not possess or pursue the same kind of publicity certain other individuals do or did (cough,cough), so the information will probably sink through the ranks very slowly, if at all.

@Ankhetmaatre: You mentioned Svante`s method in your post, is it the sequencing of mtDNA that you or your friend refer to? From what I understood this is so far the only rather safe option to rule out contamination.

Although the next-generation sequencing methods, also written about by Marchant in the New Scientist, might change quite a lot.
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Sothis
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, it was not the New Scientist, but nature
http://www.nature.com/news/egyptian-mummies-yield-genetic-secrets-1.12793
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SidneyF
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sothis wrote:
`From what I understood this is so far the only rather safe option to rule out contamination.

Although the next-generation sequencing methods, also written about by Marchant in the New Scientist, might change quite a lot.


I am about half way through the book and am sorry to say that, for anyone who is familiar with the history of Tutankhamun since his discovery, there is nothing new there. I am surprised, Sothis, with the knowledge you have evidenced here, that you found it all so enjoyable. Plus, I should have known Ms. Marchant would not accept the work of Zink, Pusch, et al--and, while I found this skepticism okay in an article [as reflecting the views of the anti-ancient DNA viability camp] I do not find it acceptable in a book for which I paid good money.

What contamination are you talking about, Sothis? The mummies serve as each other's checks and balances. If, say, the DNA of Tutankhamun had been contaminated by a western handler at some point, how would his autosomal DNA match to that of the other mummies of the family? It would have to mean that the DNA of Queen Tiye was contaminated by being handled by the grandmother of the western person!!
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Ankhetmaatre
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Sothis. So the answer to your question is very complex and I'm not a cell biologist so my understanding of what my friend was trying to explain to me may not be complete - in fact, I know it isn't. But I think this is the gist of it:

You asked;
Quote:
You mentioned Svante`s method in your post, is it the sequencing of mtDNA that you or your friend refer to? From what I understood this is so far the only rather safe option to rule out contamination.


When sequencing any DNA (mitochondrial or otherwise) the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method alone is less accurate for a number of reasons. First, it is very susceptible to contamination from even the tiniest exposure and requires the strictest methods of extraction and handling. Methods that Gad could not have enforced within the tomb of Tutankhamun, which is where he extracted the samples. That alone has set many skeptics off, evidentially, but believe me, the list goes on.

Paabo Svante pioneered a method of sequencing ancient DNA in collaboration with 454 Life Sciences which uses both the PCR method, rigorous restrictions and I think a minimum of 400-500 base pairs (both sides of the strand). Here is what wiki says about the process; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/454_Life_Sciences#Technology

Now statistics plays a vital role in the interpretation of the results of DNA sequencing. This is another place my friend and most other skeptics feel that Fink, Pusch and Gad's results are off but I'm afraid I don't understand fully what this implies.

For myself, I would like to believe that ancient Egyptian DNA can be retrieved and sequenced, but I realize that my feelings on the matter are purely subjective. The article your referenced in Nature gives me hope but at the same time when people who have spent their entire careers sequencing genomes tell me "there is no way this can be accurate and here's why..." I listen to them (even if I don't fully understand what they're saying Laughing ). I rely on their interpretations in my own work from time to time and I know that sometimes an analysis can be completely skewed if the source of the object is known beforehand, so that's something to consider as well.

I hope that answers your question somewhat.

SidneyF, I agree that the first few chapters are a bit tedious to anyone already familiar with the discovery of Tutankhamun''s tomb but any popular book on the subject has to include it for those who might not be as knowledgeable. Though I've read several versions myself I still found the section on Derry's autopsy fascinating because I had never read about it in such detail before. Most books tend to skim over much of it. And as far as Marchant's skepticism is concerned I felt she did a rather good job of keeping it in check. In fact, I would not necessarily put her in that camp. Most of the skeptics I have spoken with are much more critical.

SidneyF
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The mummies serve as each other's checks and balances. If, say, the DNA of Tutankhamun had been contaminated by a western handler at some point, how would his autosomal DNA match to that of the other mummies of the family?


To answer your question, it's in the interpretation of the data (as well as the very real inevitability of actual contamination) that many skeptics question. Apparently everyone involved in the sequencing knew where the material came from. Make of it what you will, labs follow stringent methods for a reason.
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SidneyF
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ankhetmaatre wrote:


Quote:
When sequencing any DNA (mitochondrial or otherwise) the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method alone is less accurate for a number of reasons. First, it is very susceptible to contamination from even the tiniest exposure and requires the strictest methods of extraction and handling. Methods that Gad could not have enforced within the tomb of Tutankhamun, which is where he extracted the samples. That alone has set many skeptics off, evidentially, but believe me, the list goes on.


I saw him doing it in a documentary in an environment that didn't look like the tomb to me. He was boring into the bone to obtain the sample and Hawass was there.

Now statistics plays a vital role in the interpretation of the results of DNA sequencing. This is another place my friend and most other skeptics feel that Fink, Pusch and Gad's results are off but I'm afraid I don't understand fully what this implies.[/quote]

I'm not sure what you mean by "statistics" here. Years ago, Prof. Scott Woodward claimed to have gotten results from his samples from the royal mummies, even though his findings weren't published. I don't see what he had to gain by lying about being able to obtain sequences from them.


Quote:
SidneyF, I agree that the first few chapters are a bit tedious to anyone already familiar with the discovery of Tutankhamun''s tomb but any popular book on the subject has to include it for those who might not be as knowledgeable. Though I've read several versions myself I still found the section on Derry's autopsy fascinating because I had never read about it in such detail before. Most books tend to skim over much of it. And as far as Marchant's skepticism is concerned I felt she did a rather good job of keeping it in check. In fact, I would not necessarily put her in that camp. Most of the skeptics I have spoken with are much more critical.


I'll wait and see how she justifies her skepticism--and it better be good. So, far, unless my old eyes have deceived me, she has pushed back the situation to making the Elder and Younger Ladies "relatives of Amenhotep II".

quote]SidneyF
Quote:
The mummies serve as each other's checks and balances. If, say, the DNA of Tutankhamun had been contaminated by a western handler at some point, how would his autosomal DNA match to that of the other mummies of the family?


Quote:
To answer your question, it's in the interpretation of the data (as well as the very real inevitability of actual contamination) that many skeptics question. Apparently everyone involved in the sequencing knew where the material came from. Make of it what you will, labs follow stringent methods for a reason.


Here's the real answer. It boils down to "I didn't do it, myself, so I don't think it's possible. In fact, I never even tried, but my skepticism makes me seem somehow more knowledgeable than those who did try." It's BS! Should we never credit the accomplishments of persons with good reputations?
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Ankhetmaatre
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 3:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, SidneyF, I think it's very easy to get emotional about the situation but I don't think it's helpful.

Gad extracted the samples from within the tomb. There is footage of the procedure. Hawass would not allow him to remove the mummy from its environs. Woodward's motivation are dubious, at best, and he has never published his results. Perhaps he is too busy retroactively baptizing the ancient Egyptians according to Mormon customs.

I think it's very easy to fly off the handle and claim that scientists are simply being fussy and proprietary but unless you have actually had to produce verifiable, repeatable results to a peer review board under an exacting methodology you cannot or should not scoff at those who have to apply strict methods in lab. The reason modern science can even do such things as sequence DNA at all is because of scientific discipline. The results do not justify the means in any way, shape, or form.
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SidneyF
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ankhetmaatre wrote:
Well, SidneyF, I think it's very easy to get emotional about the situation but I don't think it's helpful.


What you construe as "emotional" is actually "fairness". Sorry you could not recognize it for what it is.

Quote:
Gad extracted the samples from within the tomb. There is footage of the procedure. Hawass would not allow him to remove the mummy from its environs. Woodward's motivation are dubious, at best, and he has never published his results. Perhaps he is too busy retroactively baptizing the ancient Egyptians according to Mormon customs.


It may be true that the procedure took place in the tomb. I can check the footage. But you have unfairly jumped to the conclusion that Gad could not do a proper job under those conditions. I don't know the motives of Woodward but they have nothing to do with his abilities as a microbiologist or whether he was able to obtain viable DNA from the royal mummies. And I would say sarcasm is even less helpful than what he perceive as "emotion".

Quote:
I think it's very easy to fly off the handle and claim that scientists are simply being fussy and proprietary but unless you have actually had to produce verifiable, repeatable results to a peer review board under an exacting methodology you cannot or should not scoff at those who have to apply strict methods in lab.


Ever hear of professional jealousy? It's easy to criticize, is it not? You're doing it without having any knowledge that Zink, Pusch, and Gad didn't apply "strict methods".


Quote:
The reason modern science can even do such things as sequence DNA at all is because of scientific discipline. The results do not justify the means in any way, shape, or form.


Your remarks about the scientists involved in what is called "the JAMA study" verge on libelous.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Please, you don't need to get so worked up. You seem to have a curious notion of what libel is as I am expressing only facts and relaying the opinions of others. Also, it is not libel to assert ones opinion, if stated as such. As in, it is my opinion that if you cannot divorce your emotions from the subject of the debate then you should not enter into said debate.

Marchant is certainly right about one thing, apparently, "skeptics" and "believers" do not seem to be able to discuss the issue dispassionately. I hear the same sort of vehemence from some of those on the other side of the issue. Fortunately, I am only an observer which may make it a bit easier to be objective. I don't have a dog in this fight but I am interested in learning the reasoning of those on both sides of the issue.
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SidneyF
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ankhetmaatre wrote:
Please, you don't need to get so worked up. You seem to have a curious notion of what libel is as I am expressing only facts and relaying the opinions of others. Also, it is not libel to assert ones opinion, if stated as such. As in, it is my opinion that if you cannot divorce your emotions from the subject of the debate then you should not enter into said debate.


Since you seem to have a very strange criterion for "worked up", I don't see any point in querying you on what you perceive as "facts", either. How matters really stand can best be ascertained here:



http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110427/full/472404a.html
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110427/full/472404a.html[/quote]

And this quote from the above goes to the heart of the difficulty:

"But for now, Zink says, "It's like a religious thing. If our papers are reviewed by one of the other groups, you get revisions like 'I don't believe it's possible'. It's hard to argue with that." "

That's why I say it's a lot easier to be a skeptic than a "doer". All it takes is nay-saying.
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