Three years ago, a renowned Egyptologist made a prediction that, if proved true, would solve the mystery of the only missing mummy from the dynasty of King Tutankhamen.
Nicholas Reeves of the University of Arizona believed he had found the final resting place of Queen Nefertiti.
He analyzed detailed laser scans of a painted scene on the north side of Tutankhamen’s burial chamber. He concluded that a number of cracks indicated two previously concealed doors, potentially leading to a hidden chamber housing the remains of Nefertiti. She was Tut’s stepmother, married to his father, the pharaoh Akhenaten.
She died in 1330 B.C., about seven years before Tutankhamen’s death at 19 or so.
Egyptian officials had said in 2015 that there was a “90 percent” chance that there were hidden spots behind the chamber walls.
“If I’m wrong, I’m wrong,” Reeves said after his study was released. “But if I’m right, this is potentially the biggest archaeological discovery ever made.”
It appears he was wrong.
Egyptian officials and Italian research teams deployed ground-penetrating radar to see whether any hidden or man-made spots were carved behind the walls of the tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
Their history-subverting conclusion?
“Our work shows in a conclusive manner that there are no hidden chambers, no corridors adjacent to Tutankhamen’s tomb,” Francesco Porcelli of the Polytechnic University of Turin said Sunday in Cairo, according to the Associated Press.
Porcelli added an apparent reference to Reeves’s work.
“As you know, there was a theory that argued the possible existence of these chambers, but, unfortunately, our work is not supporting this theory,” he said. Reeves could not be reached for comment.
The tomb of Tutankhamen has baffled and inspired archaeologists since Howard Carter discovered the king’s untouched chambers in 1922, lost throughout the centuries. Its four rooms together were much smaller than the tombs of other pharaohs, prompting researchers to suggest that he may have died unexpectedly and was buried in a tomb meant for other royalty.
But its untouched riches and artifacts have been key to understanding Egyptian life at the time, a rare exception to the pervasive grave-robbing that has left other tombs stripped of such items.
The king’s solid-gold mask, perhaps the most iconic image of ancient Egypt besides the Giza pyramids themselves, was recovered by Carter. The rooms also held mundane articles such as food and clothes.
Researchers are probably disappointed not to have uncovered similar riches offering up more discoveries about Nefertiti, who is similarly cloaked with intrigue. Egyptologists have speculated that she was also a pharaoh, with signs suggesting she was granted a status equal to that of her husband while he was alive. Her likeness was immortalized in a well-preserved bust crafted while she was alive and is housed in a Berlin museum.
Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said at the event that previous scans by Japanese and American scientists were inconclusive, the AP reported, but that the recent research should be considered conclusive.
Tutankhamen, after his brief rule 1,300 years before the birth of Jesus, still conjures up intense intrigue and speculation. His early death has been ascribed to a chariot accident, malaria or even a snake bite.
A “virtual autopsy” of the king in 2014 found that he probably suffered from genetic disorders because of royal inbreeding, leaving him frail and dragging a club foot. He had a pronounced overbite and probably could never have stood in a chariot.
Carter catalogued his discovery and held in his hands the clues to Tutankhamen’s tragic reality.
He recovered 120 walking sticks fit for a king.
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