Hidden chamber in the Valley of Kings: Queen Nefertiti's resting place?

Where is Queen Nefertiti?

Nefertiti's bust, a leading attraction at Berlin's Neues Museum, is world famous. This 3,300-year-old effigy was unearthed in Egypt in 1912 by the German Ludwig Borchardt. Yet her corpse was never found, and the location of her grave remains a mystery. Now Egypt has revealed exciting new finds which could potentially lead to one of the biggest archaeological discoveries ever.

Hidden chambers

King Tut's mausoleum is being reexplored. Based on preliminary information from infrared scans, Mamdouh al-Damati, Egypt's minister of antiquities, confirmed on Saturday (28.11.2015) that there is a 90% chance that King Tut's tomb contains hidden chambers. One archaeologist believes Nefertiti's sarcophagus could hidden there.

Why it could be Nefertiti

The new exploration was launched after Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist affiliated with the University of Arizona, published his theories last August. Through careful observation, he found that King Tut's small tomb appears to be the antechamber of a larger burial room. He also argues that portraits in the murals represent Nefertiti, and not Tutankhamun.

Unexpected death

The young pharaoh Tutankhamun died unexpectedly at the age of 19, in 1324 BC, after a reign of nine years. Reeves believes that priests decided to reopen Nefertiti's tomb to bury him there, since his own mausoleum had not been built yet.

The greatest find in modern archeology

British Egyptologist Howard Carter's discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922 was an archaeological sensation. Most such burial rooms had been plundered over the years, but this was the best-preserved and most intact pharaonic tomb ever found in Luxor's Valley of Kings. Will the hidden chambers lead to an even more spectacular find?

Really King Tut's mask?

Among many other treasures, the tomb contained the mummy's iconic golden mask. Yet Reeves believes that it - and about 80 percent of the burial equipment found in Tutankhamun's tomb - was actually made for someone else.

Japanese infrared scans

Over a period of two days, Japanese radar specialist Hirokatsu Watanabe, pictured above, conducted scans. Measuring temperature variations, the experts discovered that the north wall of King Tut's burial chamber didn't reflect heat the same way the others did, indicating possible pockets of air behind the murals. The scans must be further analyzed by the Japanese expert over the following month.

King Akhenaten's many wives

The scans were spurred by Nicholas Reeves' theories. Though the renowned British archaeologist (center) has many reasons to believe this chamber could hide Queen Nefertiti, the Great Royal wife of Akhenaten, others are more cautious. Minister of antiquities Damati (left) said the chamber adjoining King Tut's tomb may also have belonged to Kiya, another of Akhenaten's wives.

The 'heretic' monotheist cult

Akhenaten is the pharaoh who temporarily converted ancient Egypt to monotheism by imposing the single cult of the sun god Aten. Nefertiti played a major role in this religious revolution. Their rule ended with a military takeover. Later on, the entire family's names were wiped out from official records as they were considered heretics for having abolished the Egyptian pantheon.

Impossibly in the Valley of Kings?

This is why it is unclear who succeeded Akhenaten. Reeves argues that it was Nefertiti herself. Zahi Hawass, Egypt's former antiquities minister (pictured), believes her involvement in the cult rules out her being entombed in the hidden chamber. "The lady was worshiping Aten with Akhenaten for years. The priests would never have allowed her to be buried in the Valley of the Kings," he told AFP.

Secrets to be unveiled… later

Near present-day Luxor, Egypt's Valley of Kings is where the pharaohs and powerful nobles were buried over 3,000 years ago. After the scans are analyzed, experts will need to determine how to enter the hidden part of the tomb without damaging King Tut's burial chamber. That delicate process could take months.

Egypt has discovered hidden chambers adjoining King Tut's burial room. What they conceal will remain a mystery for a few months, but experts speculate that it could be the resting place of mysterious Queen Nefertiti.