Scans raise chance of Nefertiti’s tomb being found

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Scans raise chance of Nefertiti’s tomb being found

VALLEY OF THE KINGS, Egypt - Egypt on Friday invited archaeologists and experts from around the world to examine new data from new, extensive radar scanning conducted on King Tutankhamun’s tomb to explore a theory that secret chambers could be hidden behind its walls.

The open invitation to a conference in Cairo in May, issued by the antiquities minister at a news conference just outside the tomb, aims to bring broader scientific rigor to what so far have only been tantalizing clues.

The new exploration was prompted by a theory by British Egyptologist Nicolas Reeves that undiscovered chambers lie behind the tomb’s western and northern walls and that they likely contain the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, one of pharaonic Egypt’s most famous figures - whose bust, on display at the Berlin Museum, is a much storied symbol of ancient beauty.

Preliminary scans whose results were announced last month suggested two open spaces with signs of metal and organic matter. Egypt’s archaeologists announced Friday they completed more extensive scanning, sponsored by National Geographic, and the results must now be analyzed.

If chambers - whether containing Nefertiti’s tomb or not - are discovered behind the western and northern walls covered in hieroglyphs and bas-reliefs in Tut’s tomb, it would likely be the biggest discovery in Egyptology since Howard Carter first discovered the king’s 3,300-year-old burial chamber and its treasures in 1922.

Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anani, who was appointed to his post last week, counselled caution.

He said Egypt’s “scientific credibility” and the preservation of its antiquities were at stake, adding; “We will rely only on science going forward. There are no results to share at the current stage, but only indications. We are not searching for hidden chambers, but rather we are scientifically verifying whether there are such rooms.

“We are looking for the truth and reality, not chambers.”

Another radar scan will be carried out at the end of the month. It will be done vertically from atop the hill above the tomb, using equipment with a range of about 40 meters (43 yards).

Harvard University Egyptology professor Peter Der Manuelian, who is not involved in the project, said the Valley of the Kings is “notorious for containing fissures, cracks” that complicate interpreting the scans. “So the more scans we do, and from different angles and directions, inside and outside the tomb, the better,” he told The Associated Press.

Even if the spaces are rooms, they could be undecorated small rooms for holding embalming materials, he said - or, more dramatically, “the beginning of a larger floor plan.

“We’ll have to be patient. In the meantime, kudos to Nick Reeves for pointing out the presence of these anomalies and for sharing them with the world.”

Reeves’ theory was prompted by the unusual structure of Tut’s tomb. It is smaller than other royal tombs and oriented differently. Furthermore, his examination of photos uncovered what appear to be the outlines of a filled-in doorframe in one wall.

He has speculated that Tutankhamun, who died at age 19, may have been rushed into an outer chamber of what was originally Nefertiti’s tomb. Nefertiti was one of the wives of Tut’s father Akhenaten, though another wife Kia is believed to be Tut’s mother.

“We have a theory, and now what we’re trying to do is test it. And, I , if I am right, fantastic, if I am wrong, I’ve been doing my job, I’ve been following the evidence trail, and seeing where it leads,” Reeves told the AP.

El-Anani said Egyptologists and Valley of the Kings experts will discuss on May 8 the findings of the scans in a previously scheduled conference devoted to King Tut to be held at Egypt’s new national museum near the Giza Pyramids outside Cairo. There, they can discuss the findings. The outcome, he said, will guide what course of action Egypt takes.

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