A team of researchers recently revealed that the famous Two Brothers mummies displayed at Manchester University are actually just half brothers.
The DNA evidence puts to rest the questions as to whether the two elite men are actually related. However, it also sheds light on the role and social standing of women in ancient Egypt.
Brothers To Half Brothers
Since the discovery of the mummified remains of the Two Brothers in 1907, experts have been trying to unwrap the mystery of Khnum-nakht and Nakht-ankh. Hieroglyphic inscriptions seem to reveal them as sons of a woman named Khnum-aa and an unnamed governor. Other experts, however, still questioned whether they were even related at all.
A new study in the Journal of Archaeological Science seems to show that neither of the two theories was entirely accurate. DNA testing has now revealed that while Khnum-nakht and Nakht-ankh indeed had the same mother, their Y chromosome sequences showed that they very likely had different fathers.
The results of the study provide an important piece in trying to understand the story and origin of the Two Brothers, but it also opens up new questions. For instance, now that their kinship has been revealed with considerable evidence, perhaps the next step would be to try to understand the circumstances surrounding the said relationship.
According to the researchers, however, it would be difficult to place their results in a broader context, especially since there are no other records of two elite men who were buried together in a Pharaonic tomb. They surmise that perhaps the state of Two Brothers's tomb reveals that their mother was of a high social standing during their time when it was social class and not gender, which determined an individual's rights.
Women In Ancient Egypt
Egyptologist Barbara Watterson once described how women in ancient Egypt actually enjoyed the same rights as men in most aspects of the law apart from occupation. Women had the rights to have their own properties, adopt children under their own names, bring legal action to court, marry whoever they wished, and even get a divorce.
Basically, ancient Egyptian women had rights and greater social standing better than women from other cultures at the time.
"All landed property descended in the female line, from mother to daughter, on the assumption, perhaps, that maternity is a matter of fact, paternity a matter of opinion," Watterson states.
In most matters, ancient Egyptian women were deemed as legally capable to care for themselves even without the approval and supervision of a man. Given this culture, then perhaps the notion that the Two Brothers' mother was, in fact, of high social standing at the time is entirely possible.
It is not ideal to determine an individual's rights with regard to his social class or gender. In light of the Two Brothers revelation, however, it is interesting to know that in some ways, women had experienced some form of gender equality in ancient Egypt.