An interloper revealed: DNA analysis and the identification of an Egyptian mummy

Karin Sowada, Carney Matheson, Allan Spigelman, Mark Spigelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney holds a significant collection of human remains from Egypt, including several complete mummies, their coffins and various body parts. Much of this was collected in the 19th century. Over the last 15 years, the remains and associated burial equipment have been examined using a range of multidisciplinary techniques. This has included analysis of the coffins and texts, study of the mummy wrappings, coffin timbers, radiocarbon dating, CT scans and x-rays. The results of DNA testing on one of the mummies, NM R27/3, are presented here. Tests were conducted to identify the presence of specific diseases and to confirm the mummy's sex. The results of this analysis show how DNA testing can help to resolve questions of historical inquiry, individual identity and the presence or absence of disease, even when dealing with ancient human remains. These results raise wider methodological issues, showing that caution should be exercised in the identification, dating and interpretation of mummies, particularly those in museums.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-116
Number of pages16
JournalBulletin of the Australian Centre for Egyptology
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Egyptian mummies
  • DNA
  • mummification
  • Egypt Archaeology
  • Egypt -- Third Intermediate Period


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