What could be the most important archeological discovery of our century is being investigated in Egypt — with radar equipment. The radar is going to be used to test British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves’ theory that the lost Queen Nefertiti may be hidden in her step-son Tutankhamun’s tomb.
The ancient queen reigned in Egypt in the 14th Century BC and her mummy has never been found. But in February, Reeves published a new theory — that high-resolution scans of Tutankhamun‘s tomb suggested Nefertiti could be buried in one of two hidden chambers in the boy-king’s mausoleum.
“If it’s true, we are facing a discovery that would overshadow the discovery of Tutankhamun himself,” Mamdouh al-Damaty, Egyptian antiquities minister, told Reuters. “This would be the most important discovery of the 21st century.”
Reeves was analysing high-resolution scans of the tomb — commissioned by Spanish preservation specialists Factum Arte — when he noticed marks that looked like two former doorways. He believes there are passageways behind these doors that lead to two chambers, one of which will unlock the mystery of Queen Nefertiti.
“I have been testing the evidence ever since, looking for indications that what I thought I was seeing was, in fact, not there,” said Reeves to the BBC. “But the more I looked, the more information I found that I seemed to be looking at something pretty real.”
Egyptian officials will use radar and thermal imaging equipment to test Reeves’ proposal. Damaty said they “will confirm whether there’s something there.” This testing should begin in the next three months.
Egyptologists have been puzzled by Tutankhamun’s tomb and Nefertiti’s location alike. The tomb — located in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings — is smaller than those of other kings’ and is the most intact ever discovered. Reeves has also said its design indicates it was built for a queen, not a king.
But other researchers are more cautious about this potential discovery.
“The idea that one [doorway] might lead to a pre-existing burial chamber, let alone that of Nefertiti, is pure speculation,” Egyptologist Aidan Dodson, of Bristol University, told Reuters.
It remains unclear when or where Nefertiti died, which means it is hard to know where she is buried. Some archaeologists believe Nefertiti’s mummy was discovered in 1898 and is on display in the Egyptian Museum. Others think she died before her husband and is buried near where her bust was found in 1912.
But for those who believe she outlived her husband, the king, and briefly ruled Egypt on her own — the mystery of her final resting place is still unsolved.
If Reeve’s is right, the discovery would likely be the first fully-intact ancient Egyptian tomb ever found. Previous discoveries have been hindered by looting, with much of the gold removed over the centuries.