CAIRO — Former UA scholar Nicholas Reeves believes the tomb of King Tutankhamun may not have revealed all its secrets. And the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities agrees with him.
In a news conference Thursday, antiquities minister Mamdouh el-Damaty confirmed the Egyptian government’s approval of radar and thermal scanning in the most famous tomb in the world. The scans would determine if Reeves is correct that features beneath the painted surfaces of the chamber’s walls are doors, and could prove whether chambers lie beyond. If so, it could mean future excavations.
“The discovery of King Tutankhamun was the most important discovery for the last century.” El-Damaty said. “And if we discover the tomb of King Tutankhamen contains now another tomb … it will be the most important discovery of this century, too.”
Reeves, a former resident scholar at the University of Arizona, thinks he won’t find just another royal tomb. He believes the walls conceal undisturbed remains from the legendary Egyptian queen Nefertiti, famously depicted in an iconic portrait bust housed in the Neues Museum in Berlin.
“What is hidden beyond will not be the burial of an ordinary queen, whose rank will have bestowed merely a small single shrine.” Reeves said. “It would be that of a super-queen, who enjoyed obvious pharaonic privileges. The only person who at this time seems to fit that description is Nefertiti.”
Nefertiti was the wife of Amenhotep IV who renamed himself Akhenaten and positioned her as his equal. Together, they changed the state religion to a monotheistic form of sun-worship and moved the capital in the 14th century B.C. to modern-day Amarna.
Akhenaten is believed to be the father of Tutankhamun, known widely as King Tut, but it is uncertain if Nefertiti was his mother. El-Damaty, for example, believes it to be Kiya, another of Akhenaten’s wives. In fact, what happened to Nefertiti is unclear. She disappeared from records after 12 years.
“The old story that she died before Akhenaten was buried at Tell el-Amarna appears now to be mistaken. She disappears from the records, yes, but not because of death.” Reeves said.
He believes the co-ruler renamed herself Smenkhkare and ruled as pharaoh between Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. Smenkhkare was a short-lived pharaoh whose identity and origins remain mysterious. The common practices of name-changing, including the apparent change of Nefertiti to Neferneferuaten, and incest in the royal family also complicate matters. In 2010, DNA testing indicated the body of Tut’s mother had been discovered among three found originally in 1898. But the identity of the “Younger Lady,” as she’s known, is unclear.
For his part, El-Damaty does not share Reeves’ conviction that Nefertiti lies in wait behind the walls of Tut’s tomb.
“I agree that behind the walls, we will find something else, but I don’t feel that it’s queen Nefertiti.” El-Damaty said. “Perhaps one of the women of the palace of Tutankhamun, perhaps his mother (Kiya).”
Reeves’ evidence includes the high-resolution scans published online in 2014 revealing what he thinks is a false partition wall and the doors, as well as in the paintings on Tut’s burial chamber walls and architectural design. A tour of Tut’s tomb with Reeves earlier in the week finally convinced el-Damaty further scans were necessary.
“The evidence is there, and I believe it to be persuasive.” Reeves said. “What I can assure you is that if there are indeed hidden chambers beyond Tutankhamen’s tomb they will certainly be found.”
El-Damaty says he hopes paperwork to proceed will be done by November. After that, equipment will need to be procured and inspected to be sure nothing will harm the tomb before any action is taken.
“I think it means a lot.” El-Damaty said. “Not only for Egypt, for all the world.”