In 1922, British Egyptologist Howard Carter unearthed one of the greatest finds of the 20th Century, the sealed and unlooted tomb—a rarity for the Valley of the Kings—of the 18th dynasty boy-king Tutankhuman, aka King Tut. Carter spent a decade searching the underground sepulcher, pulling out 5,000 now-iconic artifacts like Tut’s death masks and his mummified remains.
But nearly 100 years after that excavation, scientists realize that the treasures of Tut’s tomb may not be exhausted, and recent scans in the room show that there are likely two more sealed an unexplored cavities beyond the burial chamber. If true, it could be the discovery of this century.
In a press conference today, Dr. Mamdouh Eldamaty, the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, revealed that a scan conducted late last November by radar specialist Hirokatsu Watanabe suggests that two empty cavities lie beyond the north and west walls of Tut’s burial chamber, along with what looks like door lintels. The data also suggest that metallic and organic materials are present the chambers—a possible indicator of grave goods and other mummies.
The announcement is something of a victory for Nicholas Reeves, a University of Arizona Egyptologist and veteran of many excavations in the Valley of the Kings, reports Peter Hessler at National Geographic. Last July, Reeves released a paper suggesting that, based on laser scans and cracks and fissures in the wall plaster that there may be sealed up doorways within Tut’s chamber and unexplored caverns beyond. He also raised the possibility that one chambers might be the burial of Nefertiti, the wife of Tut’s father, Akhenaten, and a tomb long sought after by researchers.
But Reeve’s theory spurred a huge debate among archeologists. Zawi Hawass, Egypt’s former Minister of Antiquities told The Telegraph last December: “It's not logical that every archaeologist come up with an idea and you run after him—because theories are not based on evidence. There is not a one per cent chance Reeves’s theory is correct.”
The latest finding, however, based on a Watanabe’s detailed analysis of the data he collected in November has made Reeves more confident. “I’ve not found anything that makes me doubt my initial conclusions,” he tells Hessler. “I guess we’re getting closer to a resolution now.”
In fact, the data was examined by outside experts, including Remy Hiramoto who works with the UCLA Egyptian Coffins project, who tells Hessler that the scan “validates the initial hypothesis that there is a non-natural occurring chamber or cavity on the other side of the wall…[and] there’s definitely something that’s within the void," he says. "There’s something in there.”
Still there are doubters. Owen Jarus at LiveScience points out that radar operators routinely get false positives in the Valley of the Kings. There are “many faults and natural features that can look like walls and tombs,” Afifi Ghonim, former field director of excavations in the Valley told Jarus in 2013.
Hopefully, the picture will come into focus later this month when a team from National Geographic carries out another set of radar scans in Tut’s chamber. Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities says they will hold another press conference on April 1 to discuss those preliminary results.