When Howard Carter broke through into the undisturbed tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, it was an international sensation. The 3,000-year-old burial chamber was the most complete ever discovered, and is generally regarded as the most significant archaeological find of that century. But now scientists might be on the brink of another incredible find, as more evidence is found to support the idea that there might be a second burial chamber hidden behind the one that held Tutankhamun’s remains.
The Egyptian antiquities minister announced on Thursday that the latest scans of the tomb have revealed signatures of metal and organic material behind a wall suspected to hold the mummified remains of Queen Nefertiti. The scans also detected organic matter behind another wall, which is speculated to be a previously unknown storage room. “We can say more than 90 percent that the chambers are there. But I never start the next step until I’m 100 percent,” said Egyptian antiquities minister Dr. Mamdouh Eldamaty.
The notion of the hidden chambers was first sparked last year by British Egyptologist Dr. Nicholas Reeves. After studying the walls of the young King Tut's tomb, he formed the hypothesis that there could be much grander rooms blocked up. His speculations also fit with a long-standing mystery that has plagued archaeologists since the tomb was discovered: Why was the burial chamber for the young pharaoh so small and modest compared to those made for other Egyptian rulers?
The researchers used radar to scan the burial chamber of King Tut. Khaled Desouki/GettyImages
Reeves suggests that when the king died suddenly in 1323 BCE at age 19, it took the kingdom by surprise and there was simply not enough time to build him his own resting place. Instead, they commandeered that which had already been built and used for Queen Nefertiti, who some suggest was actually King Tut’s mother, though there is some debate around this. This idea would fit in nicely with why Tutankhamun’s tomb was so small, but also with why archaeologists have never found Nefertiti’s own burial chamber, despite being one of the most famous ancient Egyptian queens.
Radar scans last year revealed what researchers think might be concealed doorways behind two of the tomb walls, with straight lines on the murals also indicating hidden rooms behind them. These newer scans also show evidence of organic matter behind both walls. The next step is to see if researchers can work out the exact dimensions of what might be hidden, as well as the thickness of the walls separating the rooms. This is expected to be done towards the end of the month, and only if these definitively confirm Reeves' theory, will any further work be carried out.