Egyptologist one step closer to finding Queen Nefertiti
The search for ancient Egypt's Queen Nefertiti in an alleged hidden chamber in King Tut's tomb has gained strength. Egypt's antiquities minister said he is more convinced a queen's tomb may lay hidden behind King Tutankhamun's final resting place.
Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty toured the burial sites of Tutankhamun and other pharaohs in Luxor's famed Valley of the Kings with British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves. El-Damaty said he thinks King Tut's 3,300-year-old pharaonic mausoleum probably contains at least one hidden chamber.
Reeves theorized that Tutankhamun, popularly known as King Tut, may have been rushed into an outer chamber of what was originally Nefertiti's tomb. King Tut died at age 19.
"I agree with him that there's probably something behind the walls," el-Damaty said. But he said if anyone is buried there, it is likely Kia. She is believed by some Egyptologists to be King Tut's mother.
Researchers have examined high-resolution images of King Tut's tomb. The images "revealed several very interesting features which look not at all natural. Features like very, very straight lines, which are 90 degrees to the ground. (They are) positioned so as to correspond with other features within the tomb," Reeves said Sept. 29 during the visit.
These features would have been difficult to capture with the naked eye, he said.
Reeves said the walls could conceal two unexplored doorways. One perhaps leads to Nefertiti's tomb. He also argues that the design of the tomb suggests it was built for a queen.
El-Damaty said he will seek final approval for a radar inspection of the tomb.
Nefertiti is famous for her beauty. She was the subject of a famous 3,300-year-old bust. She was the primary wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten. He tried and failed to switch Egypt to an early form of monotheism. That is the belief that there is only one God. A pharaoh followed Akhenaten. That pharaoh is referred to as Smenkhare. Next came Tut, who is widely believed to have been Akhenaten's son.
Reeves believes that Smenkhare is actually Nefertiti.
"Nefertiti disappears ... according to the latest inscriptions just being found," said Reeves. "I think that Nefertiti didn't disappear. She simply changed her name."
After Nefertiti died, Tut buried her. When he died, someone decided to extend the tomb, Reeves suggested. "Since Nefertiti had been buried a decade before, they remembered that tomb was there. And they thought, well, perhaps we can extend it," he said.
Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered in 1922. It was filled with artifacts, including the famed golden funeral mask. It made him known the world over. It boosted interest in that era. It is called the Amarna period.
While writings in tombs provide some information, they are not always helpful in clearing up a pharaoh's ancestry.
"In the case of royal tombs they're not dealing with mortal life. They're dealing with the beyond," said Reeves. He added that writing things such as the family tree "is just irrelevant."
Instead, these writings include things such as "spells to enable the deceased to reach the lands of the gods," said Reeves. This means Egyptologists use a number of factors to develop theories. Those lead to divisions among experts about the period.
"Every Egyptologist has got a different view on the Amarna period. We have a lot of evidence to discuss but not just quite enough to make a final decision," said Reeves.
"If we find something extra, even one small new writing would be a great bonus. It could change everything," Reeves said.
Tut, Nefertiti, and Akhenaten's family led Egypt during one of its most unsettled times. It ended with a military takeover by Egypt's top general, Horemheb.
"Egypt basically fell apart under Akhenaten. It was the military that pulled it all together again," said Reeves. He added that Egyptians wiped out Tut's name from official records of pharaohs.
Horemheb "made laws to control the country and to fight against the corruption, against the police who were corrupted, against the high officials," said Mohamed Saleh. He is a former director of the Egyptian Museum. He also toured the site.
Tourism Minister Hesham Zazou said he hopes the new discovery will restore tourism in ancient Egyptian sites. Tourism at Red Sea beach resorts is rebounding. It fell after years of turmoil following the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, said Zazou. But otherwise "tourism is suffering tremendously."