Egyptologists Clash Over Hidden Chambers In King Tut’s Tomb

Video highlights from King Tut's Secret Chamber

As the debate rages on, new tests for secret rooms yield conflicting results.

Never underestimate the mysterious, unpredictable, and slightly insane power of Egyptology…

After months of speculation about the possibility of hidden chambers in the tomb, officials have revealed that two different radar scans of King Tut’s burial chamber have resulted in contradictory conclusions.

“Until now, we don’t have a conclusive result,” Khaled El-Enany, the minister of antiquities, announced on the final day of a conference in Egypt. He called for the formation of a committee to decide the next step, which will likely include further examination by radar and other high-tech methods. On his way out of the lecture hall, El-Enany continued:  “This is my message—that science will talk.”

But how will people interpret what it’s saying? Science and technology first gave birth to the theory, which was based on the results of a laser scan that portrayed the texture of the burial chamber’s walls in unprecedented detail. Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist, studied the scans and noticed a series of striking door-like features hidden beneath the painted scenes that decorate the north and west walls.

EXPLORE FOR MORE: The Secrets And History of Ancient Egypt

Last July, Reeves published a paper speculating that the tomb may actually contain another intact burial—in his opinion, the tomb of Queen Nefertiti. Nefertiti is widely believed to have been Tut’s stepmother, and in recent years there’s been a growing acceptance of the idea that she preceded him as pharaoh.

From the beginning, most Egyptologists were skeptical of the idea that Nefertiti in particular might be buried there, but they became more receptive to the possibility of additional chambers last November, when a radar scan seemed to detect the presence of voids behind the north and west walls.

Those scans were conducted by Hirokatsu Watanabe, a Japanese radar specialist, who claimed that his equipment also sensed metallic and organic objects within those voids.  Afterwards, Mamdouh Eldamaty, the minister of antiquities at the time, announced at a press conference that he was “90 percent positive” that another chamber lies behind the north wall.

In March, a second team of radar technicians, organised by National Geographic, conducted a follow-up scan to see if Watanabe’s results could be replicated. But they failed to locate the same features, as Zahi Hawass, the former minister of antiquities and one of Egypt’s most prominent scholars, noted during the weekend conference. “If there is any masonry or partition wall, the radar signal should show an image,” he said. “We don’t have this, which means there is nothing there.”

After claiming that radar has never led to a single discovery in Egypt, Hawass said, “We have to stop this media business, because there is nothing to publish. There is nothing to publish today or yesterday.” But then he promptly gave the media business something to publish by accusing Eldamaty of secretly submitting paperwork to the authorities in order to drill a hole in Tut’s tomb and insert a fibre-optic camera.

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit