Egypt’s boy king, Tutankhamun, may have extra rooms in his — with apologies to Steve Martin — condo made of stone-a.
Archaeologists exploring the 3,300-year-old mausoleum said Saturday there’s a 90% chance that King Tut’s gold-filled burial chamber leads to additional rooms that may well contain the remains of Queen Nefertiti, according to the Associated Press.
Technology plays a key role in this latest quest. High resolution, infrared and radar-based imaging of Tut’s tomb indicate the possibility of a corridor that may lead to another burial chamber.
“The radar, behind the north wall (of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber) seems pretty clear,” British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves said at a press conference in Luxor, home of Egypt’s celebrated Valley of the Kings. “If I am right it is a continuation — corridor continuation — of the tomb, which will end in another burial chamber. I think it is Nefertiti and all the evidence points in that direction.”
After extensive testing over the past three days, Egyptian antiquities minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said Saturday that the findings will be sent to Japan for a month-long analysis before the search is resumed.
While el-Damaty is “approximately 90%” confident of the existence of a hidden chamber, he splits with Reeves, who teaches at the University of Arizona, in believing that the possible hidden tomb could belong to Kiya, one of the wives of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who was Tut’s father. Nefertiti also was a wife of Akhenaten, and some experts have speculated that Tut was her son.
Akhenaten is credited with temporarily turning Egyptians to a monotheistic worship of the sun god, Aton. One expert is convinced that Nefertiti’s role in the sun cult would eliminate the possibility of her being buried near Tut.
“The lady was worshipping Aton with Akhenaten for years,” Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s former antiquities minister, told AFP. “The priests would never allow her to be buried in the Valley of the Kings.”
King Tut took the throne at age 10 and died nine years later in 1324 BC. Reeves theorizes that the especially small size of Tut’s tomb — which was discovered by British archeologist Howard Carter in 1922 and whose otherworldly riches caused a sensation when they first toured the U.S. in 1976 — can be explained by the fact that it was perhaps actually meant for a queen.
The 3,300-year-old bust of Nefertiti is perhaps one of the most recognizable Egyptian relics of the period, and currently resides in the Neues Museum in Berlin.
Once officials in Luxor get more information from the scans, they’ll make decisions on when and how best to search for the new chamber without damaging Tut’s fabled resting place. While experts seem excited about the possibility of a major new discovery in their field, many continue to be cautiously optimistic.
“I think there are certainly some signs that there might have been some activity around those doorways,” Joyce Tyldesley, an Egyptologist with the University of Manchester, told the BBC. “Whether we can deduct from that that we actually (sic) the burial site of Nefertiti might be a step too far. But if it was true, it would be absolutely brilliant.”