To find out if the bones belonged to the martyred queen, the researchers extracted mitochondrial DNA, or DNA found only in the cytoplasm of an egg that is passed on through the maternal line.
The arm bone once belonged to a female with a genetic lineage, or haplogroup, known as U1b, the analysis showed. In a survey of 22,000 people from the Indian subcontinent, the researchers found none with U1b lineage. By contrast, the lineage was fairly common in a sample of 30 people from Georgia.
The other two bones showed evidence they were part of genetic lineages common in India, which supported documents suggesting the queen's relics were stored in a room with the bones of two local friars.
"The complete absence of haplogroup U1b in the Indian subcontinent and its presence in high-to-moderate frequency in the Georgia and adjoining regions, provide the first genetic evidence for the [arm bone] sample being a relic of Saint Queen Ketevan of Georgia," Rai told LiveScience.
The study is well done and honest, Jean-Jacques Cassiman, a geneticist at the University of Leuven in Belgium who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email.
"It is a bone presumed to be of the queen and will remain so until its DNA can be compared to that of preferably living relatives and if not available dead relatives," Cassiman said, referring to nuclear DNA that is in all the body's cells.
But until that point, the conclusion is based on statistics. Those statistics strengthen the idea that the bone belongs to St. Ketevan, but aren't strong enough to positively identify the remnant, Cassiman said.
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