Published On: Mon, Feb 5th, 2018

Nefertiti and a Rush of Scans: Race to find Double Burial Gathers Steam—Part I

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The world famous tomb of Tutankhamun was thrust into the spotlight like never before, ever since Dr Nicholas Reeves published a paper titled The Burial of Nefertiti? in August 2015. Based on ultra-high-resolution images of the tomb shared online by Factum Arte – a Spanish group that specializes in the replication of art works globally – the British Egyptologist proposed a theory that tomb KV62 was actually a double-burial. None other than the enigmatic Amarna queen, Nefertiti, lay behind the north wall, he posited. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the project ever since; with subsequent scans differing in their results and investigations virtually grinding to a halt. Now, Italian researchers have been authorized by the Egyptian government to conduct geo-radar studies inside the boy-king’s crypt. The world waits with bated breath for the final word in this long-drawn saga.

Detail of what is undoubtedly the world’s most famous painted stucco-coated limestone bust. Queen Nefertiti, the ‘Great Royal Wife’ of Akhenaten was one of the most powerful women in her time. It is suggested that she co-ruled with her husband, and possibly, independently upon his death. Egyptian Museum, Berlin.

Detail of what is undoubtedly the world’s most famous painted stucco-coated limestone bust. Queen Nefertiti, the ‘Great Royal Wife’ of Akhenaten was one of the most powerful women in her time. It is suggested that she co-ruled with her husband, and possibly, independently upon his death. Egyptian Museum, Berlin.

The Hunt for Nefertiti

In early November 2015, it was revealed that infrared scans had detected a possible hidden chamber behind the north wall of Tutankhamun’s tomb, which is situated in the central Valley of the Kings. These tests, conducted by Japanese radar specialist Hirokatsu Watanabe, suggested the “presence of metallic and organic substances” amidst declarations that what lay beyond “could be the discovery of the century.” Aided by state-of-the-art 3D scans produced by Factum Arte, leading Egyptologist Dr Nicholas Reeves made a stunning proposal that KV62 was a double-burial; and added that a burial chamber and storeroom lay behind the sealed, plastered, and painted doorways of the northern and western walls of the tomb. But most fellow-Egyptologists were unwilling to accept these “findings” at face value. They sought more data and demanded that the survey results be peer-reviewed, before any conclusion could be arrived at.

Soon, the initial euphoria among the general public too made way for doubts, and amidst an avalanche of criticism that Dr Reeves calmly took in his stride – for he had said right at the start: “If I’m wrong I’m wrong, but if I’m right this is potentially the biggest archaeological discovery ever made” – the theory appeared to fizzle out. Scans conducted thereafter by National Geographic were said to have yielded inconclusive results; but these were also not made available to experts. However, this was not the final verdict.

Conflicting and inconclusive results were obtained from tests based on a theory by Dr Nicholas Reeves that said KV62 extended beyond its north and west walls; where Nefertiti, it was touted, would be found buried—probably with her full pharaonic assemblage. (Anand Balaji/DepositPhotos.com)

Conflicting and inconclusive results were obtained from tests based on a theory by Dr Nicholas Reeves that said KV62 extended beyond its north and west walls; where Nefertiti, it was touted, would be found buried—probably with her full pharaonic assemblage. (Anand Balaji/DepositPhotos.com)

From the outset, Dr Zahi Hawass, former Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, remained unconvinced with the ‘Tutfertiti’ theory, “Howard Carter worked in the tomb for ten years. I am sure he was looking everywhere to see if these walls were solid or if there was something behind them. We always do that when we discover a tomb. Otto Schaden, when he found KV63, examined every place in the tomb to see if there were more rooms. This is why I believe that Carter did the same, and he was not able to see anything that was hidden. I also think that he removed the plaster from the niches that held the magical bricks. That would have indicated if there was anything behind the walls, because the plaster had been removed.” While this is true, we must bear in mind that Carter could not have done much given the limited scientific techniques at his disposal back then.

When one studies the depictions of Nefertiti it is obvious that she held considerable clout in the Amarna court. She possibly shared the responsibility of governing Egypt alongside her husband, Akhenaten. These battered, painted statues of the couple were discovered by Sir Flinders Petrie in Tell el-Amarna. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

When one studies the depictions of Nefertiti it is obvious that she held considerable clout in the Amarna court. She possibly shared the responsibility of governing Egypt alongside her husband, Akhenaten. These battered, painted statues of the couple were discovered by Sir Flinders Petrie in Tell el-Amarna. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Turn Right for Female Royalty

British Egyptologist, Dylan Bickerstaffe, published an engaging and comprehensive Paper titled, Did Tutankhamun Conceal Nefertiti? in which he carefully analyzed every claim Reeves proposed; and his meticulous study offered evidence to the contrary: “In support of the existence of an additional side chamber in KV62 Reeves points to the fact that King’s Valley tombs of the later 18th Dynasty appear to have aimed to have four such side chambers, ideally one at each end of the Burial Chamber, and one on each side of the Antechamber. Thus, this arrangement, which was initiated by Amenhotep II in KV35, was continued by Thutmose IV in KV43, and developed by Amenhotep III in WV22, and Horemheb in KV57. The development in the two latter cases is that an additional side chamber was added to the Burial Chamber and that one or two of these side chambers were extended to form burial suites for family members. As Reeves notes, the fact that the Entrance Passage of Tutankhamun’s tomb met the side of the Antechamber, rather than the end, meant that there were never likely to have been more than three side chambers in KV62.

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