Archaeologists searching for the final resting place of Queen Nefertiti say they are almost certain they have found a hollow space behind a wall in the tomb of Ancient Egypt’s boy king Tutankhamun, raising hopes that they are on the brink of unveiling passages to a hidden chamber.
Nefertiti died in the 14th Century BC and was believed to be Tutankhamun’s stepmother.
Discovery of her tomb would be the most significant find this century, shedding light on what is still a poorly understand part of Egyptian history.
Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist who used digital scans of the walls of Tutankhamun’s grave complex in the Valley of the Kings to come up with the theory of a hidden tomb, told a news conference that radar data would now be taken to Japan for further analysis.
“The radar, behind the north wall [of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber] seems pretty clear. If I am right it is a continuation – corridor continuation – of the tomb, which will end in another burial chamber,” he said.
Mamdouh al-Damaty, Egyptian antiquities minister, said: “We said earlier there was a 60 per cent chance there is something behind the walls. But now after the initial reading of the scans, we are saying now it’s 90 per cent likely there is something behind the walls.”
King Tut’s tomb was first uncovered by Howard Carter, the English archaeologist, in 1922. The discovery made headlines around the world and continues to fascinate today.
Speculation about Nefertiti’s burial place has continued ever since. Some believe she was buried in Amarna, an ancient capital city founded by her husband Pharaoh Akhenaten and where her 3,300-year-old bust was found in 1912.
But others, such as Dr Reeves, of Arizona University, believe she outlived her husband and ruled in her own right.
In a research paper published in October, he said he believed Tutankhamun’s mausoleum was originally occupied by Nefertiti and that she had lain undisturbed behind what he believes is a partition wall for more than 3,000 years.
“The implications are extraordinary, if digital appearance translates into physical reality,” he wrote. “Within these uncharted depths an earlier royal interment – that of Nefertiti herself.”
The latest radar results appear to confirm at least part of his theory.
Hirokatsu Watanabe, a Japanese radar specialist, said: “There is, in fact, an empty space behind the wall based on radar, which is very accurate, there is no doubt. We cannot say at this point however the size of the space behind the wall.
“We have the data but we must analyse it to understand. But we are working in the Valley of the Kings, so we are expecting to find antiquities behind the wall.”
If it does eventually reveal Queen Nefertiti’s grave, it would solve a king-size mystery, explaining why King Tut’s tomb was smaller than those of other pharaohs and why its shape resembled that of Egyptian queens of the period.
While progress has been rapid since Dr Reeves revealed his theory, the next phase could take years of planning, including an international conference to decide the best way to protect fragile remains that may have lain undisturbed in a hermetically sealed chamber.