The answer to one of Egyptology’s most enduring mysteries may have been lying in plain view the whole time, an archaeologist has claimed.
According to new research, the long-sought final resting place of Egypt’s Queen Nefertiti may lie beyond two hidden doorways inside the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
The discovery was made by Nicholas Reeves, an English archaeologist at the University of Arizona, after poring over high-resolution digital scans of the walls of Tutankhamun’s grave complex in the Valley of the Kings.
In a research paper published online, Dr Reeves claims to have found a bricked-up and hitherto unnoticed portal leading out of the celebrated king‘s burial chamber.
“The implications are extraordinary, if digital appearance translates into physical reality,” he wrote. “Within these uncharted depths an earlier royal interment – that of Nefertiti herself.”
Archaeologists have long searched for the lost burial place of the slender-necked queen, who was the chief consort of the pharaoh Akhenaten in the 14th Century BC. The apparent gravity of the new research underscores the role that modern technology can play in bringing new discoveries to light.
In the research paper, Dr Reeves praises the work of Factum Arte, the Madrid-based group whose open source mapping of the site made the discovery of Nefertiti’s apparent “ghosts” possible.
“Conservators anywhere in the world are now able with ease to scrutinise and consider the paintings: every crack, blemish, and technical feature,” he wrote.
Tutankhamun’s tomb was first uncovered by English archaeologist Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings in 1922. The discovery resonated throughout an incredulous world and fascinates audiences to this day.
Scholarly debate about Nefertiti’s burial place has continued for more than a century. Some believe she was buried in Amarna, an ancient capital city founded by Pharaoh Akhenaten.
Nigel Hetherington, a British archaeologist based in Egypt, said the new research has the potential to be “phenomenal”.
“The pharaohs were masters of deception. They didn’t need laser lights and razor wire, they could design a tomb which would appear to finish naturally, but then continue,” he said. “To discover a royal burial, now, and, in the Valley of the Kings would be phenomenal.”
Egyptian officials have been more circumspect.
“No measurements have been taken to prove the theory yet,” said Yasmin El Shazly, a deputy of minister for antiquities.
Although Egypt’s ancient treasures have long provided significant tourism revenues, the government has repeatedly been criticised for its slapdash approach to heritage conservation.
Last year, campaigners warned that Egypt’s oldest pyramid, 4,600 year old step-shaped construction at Djoser, may have been ruined by conservators. In January, it was reported that moving men had attempted to glue Tutankhamun’s beard on with superglue, after dropping his precious burial mask.
So how likely is it that the riddle has been resolved?
“Put it this way: I have spent the past year trying to prove that it was not the case,” Dr Reeves told The Telegraph. “And the more and more I looked at it, the more it made sense.”
He said it was not surprising that it had taken so long, given the technology needed.
“This is a theory,” he cautioned. “It’s pretty well founded, in that it is based on photographic facts. But it is only a theory.”
He said the next step would be to carry out a radar survey – something he said was very simple, and could be done in a day.
“And if there is something there, then it will get complicated,” he said.
The tomb could be hermetically sealed, meaning that air from 3,000 years ago could be inside.
“I don’t know what that could tell us, but we would need to do a whole lot of research before we went drilling in with fibre optic cameras.”
He believes a conference could be necessary, to discuss how best to proceed. It would all be in the hands of the Egyptians to decide how best to proceed.
“But they seem as enthusiastic as we are,” he said. “It would be a great boost for tourism. It’s nice to have good news coming out of there.”
Ahmed Motawea, director of the development of archeological sites section at the ministry of Antiquities, said: “Since it was discovered, there have been lots of photo scans and excavations at the site of King Tutankhamun tomb by Egyptians and foreign Egyptologists and nothing was discovered.”
“In my opinion the claims are not logical as Nefertiti lived in Amarna, the capital of Akhenaton, and her relation was cut with the Valley of the Kings and Queens in Luxor after Akhenaton changed the worship of God Amon to Aton.”