Nefertiti and a Rush of Scans: Will the Beautiful One Arise in the King’s Valley? — Part II
After nearly a year of silence, the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings is once again back in focus thanks to the Ministry of Antiquities granting permission to a team of Italian experts to conduct radar tests—that are currently underway. The quest to find Queen Nefertiti’s final resting place is back on track in right earnest; and it seems but a matter of time before the public receives definitive answers as to whether or not the iconic Amarna queen and possible female Pharaoh Nefertiti kept the boy-king company in death.
An elegant, incomplete head of Queen Nefertiti made of dark quartzite. This sublime portrait was discovered at Tell el-Amarna in 1932 during excavations conducted by the Egypt Exploration Society. (Photo: Victor Solkin)
Was Nefertiti King Ankhkheperure?
Renowned Amarna expert Dr Nicholas Reeves published a research paper in December 2015 titled The Gold Mask of Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten in which he expressed doubts that the death mask of Tutankhamun was in fact not meant for him at all but was commissioned for a female predecessor. Based on the existence of palimpsests and clear indications of reuse that he discovered later, Reeves is convinced that Tutankhamun’s glittering golden mask was a part of the funerary assemblage prepared for a regal personage – the enigmatic Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten – and was subsequently appropriated for use in the youngster’s burial. Who then was this mysterious individual? Reeves proposes that as co-regent, Nefertiti adopted a kingly name: Ankh(et)kheprure Neferneferuaten, who bore the epithet “beneficial for her husband/spouse”. And when Akhenaten died during his seventeenth year on the throne, she succeeded him as independent pharaoh, her name now changed to Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten Smenkhkare-Djeser-Kheperu, and reigned for a very short time.
The world is on the edge of their seats to find out if the latest round of hi-tech scans by a team of Italian experts in the tomb of Tutankhamun will finally help solve the riddle of Nefertiti’s burial. Superimposed image of Nefertiti’s bust on Tutankhamun’s mask. (Photo: Roy Lester Pond)
But that begs the question: why would a new ruler, such as Tutankhamun, require his predecessor’s grave goods? Reeves postulates that burial objects intended for Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten could possibly have been discarded unused “either because the items had been superseded by funerary equipment inscribed for Nefertiti in her final incarnation as Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare, or else because Nefertiti, for whatever reason, was never buried in kingly style”. This idea is by no means farfetched, because several funerary objects from KV62 had clearly been commissioned for earlier kings. “Although the original ownership of many of these appropriated pieces cannot always be established, a good number of pieces had clearly been designed for Akhenaten or for his coregent and probable successor, the enigmatic Smenkhkare,” maintains Reeves.
But what if Nefertiti did not ascend the throne after Akhenaten’s death as is popularly believed by a section of experts? In a recent interview, Dr Joyce Tyldesley expressed her firm opinion that Nefertiti died as a Great Royal Wife and not king: “Though most people and many Egyptologists believe Nefertiti was an unusually powerful royal woman, and possibly even a pharaoh, I believe this was not the case. Just because she is Egypt’s most famous and powerful queen in our world does not mean she was Egypt’s famous and powerful queen in her world.” So, if a burial does exist within KV62, and it is not Nefertiti’s, can we hope to discover other missing royal women such as Sitamun, Kiya or even Amarna princesses?
Experts state that the sarcophagus in which Tutankhamun was laid to rest was usurped from a prior female king. Just who she was remains a mystery. Nefertiti and also her eldest daughter, Meritaten, have been proposed as likely donors. (Photo: Meretseger Books)
Saga of Scans and Surprises
By May 2016, the possibility of finding hidden rooms in KV62 began to appear bleak, if not altogether improbable. The reason: the two radar scans conducted earlier in the Burial Chamber apparently delivered contradictory results. Egyptophiles struggled to make a choice between a burial chamber filled with treasures and nothing but voids. Just when it seemed that investigations had reached a cul-de-sac; in an interview in October 2016, Dr Zahi Hawass said that a Russian radar team would carry out research a month later; but it did not come to pass. This was followed up by news that Italian specialists from the Polytechnic University in Turin, Italy, would conduct a round of radar scans in February, 2017. Given the utter lack of information, the Egyptological community was in the dark, and was left wondering if this exercise was performed at all.