Monday 23 December 2013
History has well documented the execution of Queen Ketevan of Georgia by the Sefevid Emperor of Iran. Since 1989, various delegations from Georgia have worked together with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to locate Ketevan the Martyr’s relics within the Augustinian church which was founded in 1572. There have been several unsuccessful attempts at locating the relics, but finally the continued searching has paid dividends for the team.
In the year 1613, the emperor of Persia, Shah Abbas I led an army to conquer the Georgian kingdom and Queen Ketevan became his prisoner. The queen was held in Shiraz for approximately ten years, but in 1624, the emperor sent soldiers to convert her to the Islamic faith. However, she resisted his orders and as a consequence was strangled to death on 22 September 1624.
Based on historical records, in 1624 two Augustinian friars unearthed the queen’s remains and one of them brought the relic to the St. Augustine convent in Goa, India. While the archaeological and historical data were consistent with the relic being the remains of Queen Ketevan, the archaeologists needed to somehow conclusively prove that the bone belonged to her. They approached the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad who isolated DNA from the bone.
After surveying the mitochondrial DNA sequence of 22,000 individuals from the Indian sub-continent, none of them belonged to U1b haplogroup. However, two out of 30 Georgians analysed have the same haplogroup, suggesting that the bone excavated in Goa is likely to be the remnant of Queen Ketevan of Georgia.
The researchers carried out ancient DNA analysis on the human bone remains excavated from the St. Augustine convent by sequencing and genotyping of the mitochondrial DNA. The investigations of the remains revealed a unique mtDNA haplogroup U1b, which is absent in India, but present in Georgia and surrounding regions. Since their genetic analysis corroborates archaeological and literary evidence, it is likely that the excavated bone belongs to Queen Ketevan of Georgia.