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From the Trenches Volume 58 Number 4, July/August 2005

Your daddy was a Viking--that's the shocking claim a British geneticist has made about a Celtic royal heralded for driving the Norse invaders out of western Scotland a millennium ago. Through DNA testing, Bryan Sykes determined that five clan chiefs now living in Scotland were all descended from the same common male ancestor who lived about 1,000 years ago; based on clan history, he deduced that it was Somerled, who died in the mid-twelfth century after conquering the Vikings. Though Somerled supposedly was descended from an ancient line of Irish kings, the type of Y-chromosome shared by the clan members generally exists only in Norse populations. Not only was Somerled a bit Viking, he also sowed his royal oats. Sykes estimates that the Scottish hero has a half-million living descendants--bested only by Genghis Khan, who has 16 million little Kublas on the earth today.

While DNA evidence suggests Somerled may have run his own people out of the western part of the country, it's also showing that Viking families had firm footing in the eastern half of Scotland. Oxford University researchers looking at X and Y chromosomes in populations from Shetland and Orkney realized that more Viking women had settled in eastern Scotland than in western Scotland.

Archaeologists exploring a cave near the pharaonic port of Mersa Gawasis on the Red Sea have discovered the first complete parts of an Egyptian seagoing ship. Two well-preserved cedar oars, which may have been used during one of Queen Hatshepsut's fifteenth-century B.C. naval expeditions, were found inside the cave along with anchors, cedar ship beams, and pottery from the period. Limestone tablets in the cave describe trips to the unknown lands of Punt and Bia-Punt.

Meanwhile, an archaeologist searching for ancient artifacts on an island off Alexandria came upon the remains of British soldiers and sailors who died during the 1798 Battle of the Nile between Admiral Horatio Nelson and Napoleon Bonaparte's fleet. Among them was Commander James Russell, who was identified by his uniform and reburied in Alexandria with full military honors.

It doesn't have a name, and all anyone knows for now is that it was buried B.C.) necropolis of King Teti in Saqqara. But Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) chief Zahi Hawass is calling it "the most beautiful mummy ever found in Egypt." Maybe it's the spectacular golden mask that has so wowed him, or perhaps the brightly colored scenes depicting the owner's funeral procession, the goddess Maat, and the four children of Horus. It's certainly more attractive than the facial reconstuction of Tut recently comissioned by the SCA and National Geographic, which one New York media outlet snarkily likened to a Funny Girl-era Barbra Streisand.

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© 2005 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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