By Kweku Ofori
An ancient bust of Queen Tiye of ancient Egypt retrieved by archaeologists now at Altes Museum in Berlin, Germany, shows she was a black African. Courtesy photos
A DNA test of a group of mummies from the Amarna Egyptian Pharaohs matched the genetic profiles of the population of the Great Lakes region
This year, Ugandans have witnessed the use of DNA tests to settle prominent public cases in the media concerning the paternity of children and of celebrities who have died. What has not been known to many people is the dispute concerning the ethnicity of the ancient Egyptians by scholars in the 20th Century. This dispute has been solved scientifically by the DNA tests conducted on the mummies of the ancient Egyptians in 2012 and 2013.
In December 2012, DNA tests were conducted on the mummies of Pharaoh Rameses III and his son, which proved that they belonged to human Y chromosome group E1b1a. This is the Y chromosome group of Sub Saharan Africans who speak Niger–Congo languages.
The disclosed Y chromosome group of the Pharaoh, at the time of releasing the report, was considered as just one of the details to make the investigation scientifically solid with facts. But its revelation caused a stir equal to the purpose of the original forensic investigation.
Another group of mummies from the Amarna period of Egyptian pharaohs were tested by DNA Tribes, an American Company which specialises in conducting DNA tests, in 2013.
The conclusion of the tests were that the mummies autosomal profiles would be most frequent in the present day populations of the African Great Lakes region and Southern Africa. Subsequent analysis of the autosomal profile of the mummy of Pharaoh Rameses III also concluded that this matched the genetic profiles of the population of the Great Lakes region as well.
It was reported in the DNA Tribe’s digest of February 2013, that the DNA match results of the ancient Egyptian Amarna royal mummies with the present day world regions reflect the population changes in Africa after the time of Rameses III .
One issue which remains unresolved is that of language. The language of ancient Egypt is classified as belonging to the Afro-Asiatic family of languages, which are spoken by people like the Somali and Amhara of Ethiopia, while the genetic profiles of the mummies match those of Niger–Congo language speakers. The most likely explanation is that some of the Niger-Congo speaking people, who were carriers of human Y chromosome E1b1a, moved into ancient Egypt along the Nile from the Sahara region as the region dried up and fused with the Afro-Asiatic speaking people, giving rise to the unique language of ancient Egypt.
However, these speakers of the Niger–Congo language went on to form the ruling class producing pharaohs for Egypt, while retaining the customs which they practised in common with their relatives who had migrated south into the Great Lakes region as the genetic tests have shown.