A new study, however, is reopening the book.
A team led by Alec Knight, a senior scientist in the Stanford lab of anthropological sciences Assistant Professor Joanna Mountain, argues that previous DNA analyses of the purported Romanov remains - nine skeletons unearthed near Ekaterinburg in central Russia - are invalid. Knight and his colleagues base their claim on molecular and forensic inconsistencies they see in the original genetic tests, as well as their independent DNA analysis of the preserved finger of the late Grand Duchess Elisabeth - sister of Tsarina Alexandra, one of the 1918 victims - which failed to match the tsarina's own DNA. The Stanford team's findings are reported in the January/February issue of the Annals of Human Biology.
The original DNA analysis was arranged by the Russian government's Commission on the Identification of the Remains. As reported in Nature Genetics in 1994, Peter Gill of Britain's Forensic Science Service and Pavel Ivanov, a Russian geneticist from the Engelhardt Institute in Moscow, conducted a battery of experiments supporting the hypothesis that the Ekaterinburg bones belonged to the Romanovs. The team performed DNA-based sex testing and analyzed short sequences of DNA from the nucleus of bone cells to establish that the remains of the alleged tsar, tsarina and three daughters belonged to the same family.
To solidify these conclusions, Gill and Pavel also examined DNA from mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles within cells. Compared to DNA found inside the nucleus, mitochondrial DNA preserves well in bones and acquires mutations very slowly - making it
Contact: Mark Shwartz