For years, archaeologists have searched Egypt’s Valley of the Kings for Nefertiti’s tomb. Now, new scans of King Tutankhamun's burial chamber support a recent theory that the boy-king’s tomb was originally meant for ancient Egypt’s most famous queen—and that her remains could lie just beyond King Tut’s.
Egypt’s Antiquities Minister, Mamdouh el-Damaty, announced last week that an infrared scan of Tutankhamun's burial chamber shows evidence that a pair of doorways could be hidden behind a layer of plaster and paint, possibly leading to another hidden burial chamber, Mark Strauss reports for National Geographic. According to el-Damaty, “the preliminary analysis indicates the presence of an area different in its temperature than the other parts of the northern wall.”
The scans were prompted by another recent study of digital scans of the room by the archaeologist Nicholas Reeves, which suggested that a series of tiny cracks in the wall might indicate a hidden chamber. Reeves has argued for years that Tutankhamun's tomb was originally built for Nefertiti, who was one of his father Akhenaten’s wives, but her tomb was appropriated for the young king after his sudden death at 19.
"My strong feeling is that Nefertiti may well be buried somewhere in the Valley of the Kings," Strauss once told Peter Tyson for NOVA. "It would be wonderful to find Nefertiti's tomb, because not only is this a person of the greatest historical importance, but it's a period of the most superb art."
While the temperature differences detected in the infrared scans suggest that two chambers could be hidden beyond Tut’s burial chamber. El-Damaty says more research needs to be done to verify the findings, though he is confident that archaeologists will uncover an adjacent chamber. Yet, it’s not certain it would belong to Nefertiti, Alan Yuhas reports for The Guardian. Others suggest the hidden tomb might have been built for one of Akhenaten’s other wives, a woman named Kiya.
The infrared scans are the first of a new wave of tests archaeologists are performing on ancient Egyptian monuments, including several of the country’s largest pyramids at Giza and Dahshur. By using infrared scanners to map out the pyramids’ internal structures, el-Damaty hopes scientists might uncover secret chambers and learn more about how they were built.