It is Confirmed, Relic Found in Goa is of a Georgian Queen
A team of experts from the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) along with the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and Estonian BioCentre have confirmed that a relic excavated from a Goan church was that of Queen Ketevan of Georgia who died in 1624.
The team, led by Dr K Thangaraj of the CCMB, conducted a DNA test on the relic. This first ancient DNA study from South Asia was recently published in journal Mitochondrion.
CCMB Director Dr Ch Rao described the work as an excellent example of the power of collaboration as it involved experts in the fields of archeology, genetics and history.
The CCMB is the only laboratory in the country that has the facility to analyse ancient DNA.
“We developed our own methods for DNA extraction from ancient bone samples and successfully analysed the sample,” said Niraj Rai, a Ph D student and team member.
Based on the sequence variation in the mitochondrial DNA, they assigned a haplogroup called ‘U1b’ to the bone sample.
“In order to find the distribution of U1b haplogroup in India, we have surveyed mitochondrial DNA sequence of 22,000 individuals from the Indian subcontinent, but none of them belongs to U1b haplogroup. However, two out of 30 Georgians analysed have the same haplogroup, which suggests the bone excavated in Goa is likely to be that of Queen Ketevan of Georgia,” explained Thangaraj.Queen Ketevan of Georgia lived between 1565 and 1624. She spent the last 10 years of her life as a prisoner of Emperor Shah Abbas of Persia who conquered Georgia. She was tortured and killed after she resisted the Emperor’s wish to convert to Islam.
As per literary records, her right arm bone was brought to Goa in 1627 by an Augustinian friar and kept in a black box near a window at the St Augustinian Convent in old Goa.
The Georgian Government had approached the Indian Government in its search for the relic of Queen Ketevan. Since 1989, various delegations from Georgia have visited India and worked with the ASI.