The Egyptian antiquities ministry have announced the results of a new survey on the tomb of Tutankhamun. They have apparently discredited a theory, that suggest there was a second chamber in the Pharaoh’s tomb. It had been speculated that this second undiscovered chamber was the tomb of the famous Queen Nefertiti. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities announced the official result of the investigation and stated categorically that there is no second chamber. According to the Egyptian authorities, an Italian scientific team from the University of Turin found that there is " conclusive evidence of the non-existence of hidden chambers adjacent to or inside Tutankhamun's tomb ". Has this ended the speculation that there remains to be discovered another tomb alongside that of Tutankhamun’s?
The stone sarcophagus containing the mummy of King Tut is seen in his underground tomb. Credit: Nasser Nuri.
The Tomb of Tutankhamun
Tutankhamun was Pharaoh of Egypt during the New Kingdom period, a golden age in Egyptian history. His father was the controversial Pharaoh Akhenaten, but the identity of his mother is still unknown. Tutankhamun became Pharaoh several years after the death of his father and a succession of short lived rulers, whose religious innovations had badly divided the kingdom. Under the boy-king, his father’s Monotheism was abandoned, and the traditional Egyptian religion was restored. He later married his half-sister and died while still a very young man and this has led to various theories about his death, including that he was secretly assassinated.
The gold laden tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered by Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings in 1922. It is arguably the most spectacular archaeological find in history and it produced an unprecedented trove of treasures that have astonished the world ever since they were brought into the light. The tomb and the life of Tutankhamun has remained a source of fascination for both the expert and the public ever since.
Researchers scanning the walls of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) equipment. (Ministry of Antiquities)
British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves had been the chief proponent of a theory that there was a second chamber in the tomb of Tutankhamun . He argued that it was likely to be the burial chamber of the famous Nefertiti , the wife of Tutankhamun's father, King Akhenaten and reputed to be one of the most beautiful women in history. Reeves argued that because Tutankhamun died unexpectedly that he was hurriedly buried in the outer chamber of Nefertiti’s tomb. This he argued means that the royal burial chamber of the queen was hidden behind the tomb of Tutankhamun and that many fabulous treasures were laying there waiting to be discovered. Reeves even believed that he had detected hidden doors behind the funerary painting on the walls of the Pharaoh’s tomb.
Previous scans of the north wall of King Tutankhamun's burial chamber indicated features beneath the intricately decorated plaster (highlighted) a researcher believes may be a hidden door, possibly to the burial chamber of Nefertiti. Credit: Factum Arte.
Inconclusive Survey Results
The theory prompted a group of researchers to test if Reeve’s assertions had any basis in fact. A team of Japanese experts used radar to scan the tomb of Tutankhamun and they claimed ‘with 95 percent certainty the existence of a doorway and a hall with artefacts’. This seemed to provide support to the theory of Reeves that there was a secret chamber and was presumably undiscovered. Initially the findings were supported by a former Egyptian minister of the antiquities, but this drew criticism from many experts.
In 2016 an American survey, used ground penetrating radar (GPR) on the tomb but was unable to confirm or to reject the second—chamber theory. A new Minister of antiquities convened a conference that ‘ decided to conduct a third GPR analysis to put an end to the debate’ . This third survey was led by Francesco Porcelli, of the Polytechnic University in Turin with the assistance of two private geophysics companies.
After an exhaustive survey, the Italian team have found no evidence that there was any second chamber or corridors in the tomb complex of Tutankhamun. The technology that was used by the team simply did not find any data that would indicate the existence of a chamber. According to the statement released by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities on its Facebook page:
the radargrams do not show any indication of plane reflectors, which could be interpreted as chamber walls or void areas behind the paintings
They state this with a high degree of confidence and they are effectively rejecting earlier investigations and the theory of Reeves.
The views of Reeves and others who supported his theory are as yet unknown. However, the statement, issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities would suggest that the argument for a second burial chamber has been decisively rejected. It will undoubtedly disappoint many who had hoped that the burial chamber of the legendary Queen Nefertiti could be once more revealed to the world.
Top image: Sarcophagus of Tutankhamun double image. ( Public Domain )
By Ed Whelan