Last night a team of specialists performed a second round of radar scans inside the tomb of King Tutankhamun, as archaeologists continued investigating the theory that hidden chambers may lie behind the limestone walls.
Speaking at a press conference outside the tomb Friday morning, Khaled El-Enany, Egypt's newly-appointed Minister of Antiquities, said bluntly, "We cannot talk about results now."
He expects that at least a week will be needed to analyse the data, which has been sent to experts in both Egypt and the United States.
Other officials noted the presence of "some anomalies" in the initial data readouts, but called for caution and further study, noting that they have yet to see proof for the theory.
El-Enany called for “an international debate” and asked scholars around the world to participate in a conference on Tutankhamun to be held next month in Cairo, where the minister said he hopes to hear the full range of views on the tomb. “We are not looking for hidden chambers,” he said. “We are looking for reality and the truth.”
The current investigation began with a provocative paper, published last July by Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist, who argued that the tomb of Tutankhamun may in fact also still contain the as-of-yet undiscovered burial place of 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.
But Egyptologists tend to be skeptical that she lies beyond the walls of Tut’s tomb—as of yet, there has been no real physical evidence that any specific individual would occupy hidden rooms. The possibility of these chambers, though, has been based on high-tech imaging. The starting point for Reeves’s theory was a series of laser scans that mapped out the texture of Tut’s burial chamber in unprecedented detail, revealing a series of straight lines that could indicate plastered-over passages and doorways in the north and west walls.
Last month, Mamdouh Eldamaty, the previous minister of antiquities, declared that he was “90 percent” certain that such chambers exist. His comments were based on a series of radar scans that were carried out last November by Hirokatsu Watanabe, a Japanese radar specialist, who also said that he detected evidence of “organic” and “metallic” objects behind the walls.
This week’s radar scans were designed to create a more complete data set to be reviewed by scholars. Beginning at five o’clock in the afternoon, after the Valley of the Kings closed to tourism, a team sponsored by the National Geographic Society worked through the night, carrying out more than 40 individual scans. They scanned the walls in question at five different heights, switching between two radar antennae with frequencies of 400 and 900 megahertz, respectively.
“One was for depth perception, and one was for feature perception,” said Eric Berkenpas, an electrical engineer at National Geographic who was accompanied by Alan Turchik, a mechanical engineer.
In the midst of all this activity, the man who first inspired the investigation looked tense and tired. “I’m like the rest of the world,” Reeves said on Friday. “I’m waiting for more information.” He continued, “Archaeologically, to me, the evidence still seems compelling. What we have to do now is supply it with 21st-century technology.”
The investigation – supported in part by the National Geographic Society – is being documented for a National Geographic Channel special to premiere globally later this autumn.
[Images: Kenneth Garrett/ National Geographic/ Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities]