Hyderabad: A DNA analysis of the bones that were excavated from the St Augustine Convent in Goa, done by researchers of the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), are most likely the remains of Queen Ketevan of Georgia, who was canonised as a Saint by the Georgian Orthodox Church.
As a mark of respect to the people of Georgia, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on July 10 handed over a portion of the relics of Queen Ketevan to the Government of Georgia and its people in a ceremony held in the country’s capital, Tbilisi.
Queen Ketevan is universally venerated by the Georgians for her courageous stand against the demand for forcible conversion. It is documented that in 1613, the emperor of Persia, Shah Abbas I, had led an army to conquer the Georgian kingdom and took Queen Ketevan as prisoner. For nearly a decade, 1614 to 1624, she remained as a prisoner in Shiraz, Iran. The Persian emperor then sent soldiers who reportedly strangled her to death on September 22, 1624.
Based on historical records, two Augustinian friars later unearthed the queen’s remains and one of them brought the same to the St Augustine Convent in Goa. Given the importance of Queen Ketevan for the people of Georgia, it since 1989 had been closely with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to locate her remains.
After several attempts and a topographical survey within the Augustinian convent, ASI archaeologists and a Portuguese researcher located the remains in May 2004. The hunt for the remains was also a combined effort of the Indian and Georgian governments. Once they were found, the CCMB researchers were approached by government authorities to validate or ascertain the relics.
“We 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 our genetic analysis corroborates archaeological and literary evidence, it is likely that the excavated bone belongs to Queen Ketevan of Georgia,” CCMB researchers in their study that was published in Mitochondrian in 2013, said.