Hidden Chambers Potentially Discovered Behind King Tutankhamun's Tomb May Hold Queen Nerfetiti, Scientists Say

A team of archaeologists say they have uncovered potential evidence of hidden chambers behind the walls of Tutankhamun's famous tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, which some have said may contain queen Nefertiti.

The researchers, led by former Egyptian minister of antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty, scanned the walls of the young pharaoh's tomb using ground-penetrating radar technology, which can reveal information about what lies behind opaque objects.

According to the team, these scans revealed the presence of a previously unidentified space close to the burial chamber—measuring around 7 feet high and 33 feet long—Nature reported after being given access to the results.

This could lend support to the controversial idea proposed by some Egyptologists that the tomb's walls conceal a network of hidden chambers, and the final resting place of queen Nefertiti—which has never been found.

King Tutankhamun—colloquially referred to as King Tut—became ruler of Egypt as a child in approximately 1332 B.C. but only reigned until 1323 B.C., dying at the age of 19. Not much was known about the boy ruler until his opulent tomb was discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter, making King Tut one of the most iconic symbols of Ancient Egypt.

Nefertiti was the wife of Tutankhamun's father King Akhenaten, who ruled Egypt between 1353 and 1336 B.C. However, King Tut had a different mother, making Nefertiti the young pharoah's stepmother.

In addition, Nefertiti was also Tut's mother-in-law: her daughter, Ankhesenamun, was Tutankhamun's wife, National Geographic reported.

What happened to Nerfertiti's remains after she died has long been debated.

According to Eldamaty, the orientation of the hidden space identified in their scans indicate it is physically connected to Tutankhamun's tomb, which is referred to by the code KV62.

The findings were presented to Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities earlier this month, however, they are yet to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Ray Johnson, an Egyptologist at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute in Luxor, Egypt, who was not involved in the research, described the latest results as "tremendously exciting."

"Clearly there is something on the other side of the north wall of the burial chamber," he told Nature.

He said there is a possibility that queen Nefertiti may lie in the hidden space, while also highlighting that the chamber could belong to another tomb—perhaps that of Ankhesenamun. Like Nefertiti, the location of her tomb remains a mystery.

Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves, with the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition, who was also not involved in the research, said the new results were intriguing. In 2015, he published a paper that was the first to suggest the idea of hidden chambers, potentially containing Nerfertiti's tomb. The study, based on high resolution scans of the burial chamber walls, identified the presence of "distinct linear traces" beneath the plastered surfaces.

Reeve argued that these traces are the "ghosts" of doorways that gave access to a storage chamber west of the burial chamber, as well as an extension of KV62 to the north containing the tomb of Nefertiti.

Pharaoh Tutankhamun
This picture taken on January 31, 2019 shows the head of the golden sarcophagus of the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Tutankhamun, displayed in his burial chamber in his underground tomb (KV62) in the Valley of the Kings. MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images

The significance of Nefertiti being found here would be hard to overstate, according to Reeve. Some Egyptologists argue that the queen ruled Egypt as pharaoh for a short period before Tutankhamun took the throne.

"If Nefertiti was buried as a pharaoh, it could be the biggest archaeological discovery ever," Reeve told Nature.

However, other researchers have poured water on the idea that hidden chambers associated with KV62 exist. Research carried out in 2017 by Francesco Porcelli, a physicist at the Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy, for example, appeared to demonstrate that there were no hidden chambers.

Like Eldamaty, Porcelli used ground penetrating radar to scan the area around King Tut's tomb, coming to an entirely different conclusion. According to Porcelli, his report found "with a very high degree of confidence, [that] the hypothesis concerning the existence of hidden chambers or corridors adjacent to Tutankhamun's tomb is not supported by ground penetrating radar data," he was quoted as saying by the Egyptian antiquities ministry.

Former antiquities minister, Zahi Hawass, said he also could not find any sign of hidden tomb entrances during research conducted in 2019.

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