The story of ancient Egypt’s iconic Queen Nefertiti is a source of ongoing intrigue and speculation. Renowned for her beauty, she was the chief wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, formerly Amenhotep IV, during the 14th century B.C.E. Though her husband’s decision to part with traditional religion and establish the Aten, a cult of the Sun disc, was extremely controversial, she supported him. A famous figure no doubt, in part due to her iconic bust housed in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, yet her body has never been found.
So where is this long lost queen? One British archaeologist has a bold theory. Nicholas Reeves believes it could be hidden in a burial chamber that has been right under our noses: adjacent to the tomb of Tutankhamun, who was Akhenaten's son by another wife. But physical evidence was lacking for this theory, until now. Indications for the existence of not one, but two concealed burial chambers have now been found in the boy king’s tomb.
“I am pretty sure that a very important discovery is to be made soon inside Tutankhamun’s tomb,” Reeves told Ahram Online.
The find is the result of both physical inspections of the tomb, conducted by Reeves and Egypt’s antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty, and examinations of laser images taken by Madrid-based digital mediation company Factum Arte. Their scans were used to construct a replica of the young pharaoh’s tomb, but the team made them publicly available for anyone with interest, so Reeves wasted no time scrutinizing them.
He spotted distinct lines behind the plaster covering the western and northern walls of the tomb, which could represent traces of doorways that had been covered up. Reeves was so confident of his theory that the enigmatic Nefertiti may lie behind these walls that he published a paper outlining his ideas, but it’s only this week that it has been bolstered by observations made during physical investigation of the room that contains Tutankhamun's sarcophagus.
“First of all, we saw that on the ceiling itself there’s a distinct line,” Reeves told National Geographic. This, he says, matches up with the part of the wall that they suspect may have been plastered to conceal a hidden chamber, making it inaccessible to the robbers and archeologists who have investigated the tomb in the past. “It suggests that the room was indeed a corridor.”
Then there is also the fact that the material covering this wall does not appear to be consistent across it, with the central part differing from the plaster surrounding it, which could be indicative of a door in the middle. This wouldn’t be the first time that such a find has been revealed, but we will have to wait until more detailed radar scans of the tomb are conducted for confirmation of the presence of a hollow. Even then, we won’t necessarily find out what’s inside, because the wall is covered in a priceless painting, so getting permission for excavation won’t be easy.
Regardless, there are ultimately no promises for the discovery of Nefertiti. Tutankhamun died unexpectedly before reaching 20, so it’s possible that there was not enough time to fashion him a new tomb, and that instead he was hastily buried in one that was originally purposed for someone else, perhaps Nefertiti, who died a decade before. But others aren’t so sure, instead proposing that the body of Kiya may lie behind the walls, another of Akhenaten’s wives and the suspected mother of Tutankhamun.