Debate Surges in Place of Discovery in Tomb of Tutankhamun
After months of waiting, a few press conferences, and big expectations, followers of the search for two additional chambers in the tomb of Tutankhamun have received information they may not want to know. It seems that things are at a standstill and may continue to be for an undetermined amount of time.
''Tut-mania'' or even ''Nefertiti-mania'' were so close. A press conference held on November 28, 2015, in Luxor with Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty revealed the results of a three-day operation that scanned behind the walls of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber. The official investigations were designed to test out a theory by archaeologist Nicholas Reeves that the tomb of Tutankhamun contains two hidden chambers and that one of them is the final resting place of Queen Nefertiti. According to the Minister, the scans showed that “it’s 90 per cent likely there is something behind the walls”.
Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities Dr. Mamdouh Eldamaty during the press conference in March. (Ministry of Antiquities)
Now, the new Minister of Antiquities, Khaled El-Enany, is convinced that future works inside the tomb will be possible, after more debate and additional non-invasive research. In the official comment, presented during the conference in Cairo dedicated to King Tutankhamun and his famous golden mask, he said that the Ministry is not against any scientific project and the scientific endeavor will ultimately reveal the truth. Scans will continue, but there is no chance for physical exploration unless it is 100 percent certain that there are additional chambers.
This situation is somewhat surprising, because the Tourism Minister of Egypt, Hisham Zaazou, appeared to have slipped up during a visit to Spain when he said the hidden chamber being investigated in Tutankhamun’s tomb is “full of treasures”. November scans also suggested both metal and organic material behind the walls.
However, things became more complicated in March when a second team of radar technicians who were organized 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.”
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Nicholas Reeves is a specialist in Egyptology, and a researcher with experience and impressive skills. However, since he published his theory, the voices of criticism have been loud and many. All Reeves can do for now is to continue use of non-invasive methods. Nicholas Reeves has asserted over the months that his theory is based on strong scientific research and that there is no reason to reject it until the chambers have been opened. He continues to defend his theory: “I was looking for the evidence that would tell me that my initial reading was wrong. But I didn’t find any evidence to suggest that. I just found more and more indicators, that there is something extra going on in Tutankhamun’s tomb.”
According to Ahram Online, the director the Egyptian Museum and Papyri in Berlin, Friederike Seyfried, doesn't believe in the existence of hidden chambers. In her opinion, Reeves has based his research on a mere hypothesis. She claimed that the ''sudden death of the boy-king led the tomb’s builders to finish the tomb quickly and close it up, which is why a cavity was found.” Moreover, Ahram Online says that she disagrees with the arguments presented by the researcher. She believes that the ancient Egyptians would never have made a depiction of the pharaoh without a direct inscription beside it. She supports the classical reading of the inscription in the tomb.
The debaters on the stage. (Ahram Online)
Moreover, the former Minister of Antiquity, Zahi Hawass, doesn't believe there are secret chambers in Tut’s tomb either. His voice is the loudest in the group of researchers who criticize Reeves and his theory. He has argued that the "Handling the project wasn't done scientifically at all."
The contradiction between the November and March scans also led Hawass to say “If there is any masonry or partition wall, the radar signal should show an image. We don’t have this, which means there is nothing there.” According to National Geographic, in March 2016 he said: ''We have to stop this media business, because there is nothing to publish. There is nothing to publish today or yesterday.''
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Hawass believes that future research of this type in the tomb of Tutankhamun is pointless because all the chambers were opened a long time ago. He said that no discovery has been made in Egypt yet due to the scans. However, during the scientific discussion which took place in the conference in Cairo, he suggested that in order to test the accuracy of the radar, scans should be carried out in tombs, like the lost tomb of Ramesses II, which has 10 sealed chambers.
Facing the burial chamber’s east wall, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany (standing, in the pink shirt) observes the radar scanning in progress. (Kenneth Garrett, National Geographic)
Hypotheses about additional chambers in KV62 have been alive for many years. Now, Egyptologists are able to look into it but there is heavy debate. The scans made by Japanese researchers led by Mr. Watanabe seem to not be enough to decide if a small hole in the wall should be made to provide the camera. As the situation is as delicate as the tomb is cherished, one is left to wonder when there will be another chapter in this story.
Featured Image: King Tutankhamun from his stone sarcophagus in his underground tomb in the famed Valley of the Kings in Luxor, 04 November 2007. Source: CC BY NC SA 2.0