British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves, director of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project, claimed last year that the tomb of King Tutankhamun holds a hidden doorway that leads to the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, the stepmother of Tutankhamun. Additional scans by radar technologist Hirokatsu Watanabe seem to also confirm there are two hidden chambers based on structural anomalies.
Yet, Live Science, recently released the news that National Geographic Society’s radar scans of King Tutankhamun’s tomb show no hidden chambers behind the walls. Dean Goodman, a geophysicist at GPR-Slice software, which conducted the scans for National Geographic and issued the definitive word, said he was barred from commenting on his findings. Disappointment reigned throughout the Egyptology world except, perhaps, for one man—Dr. Zahi Hawass.
Hawass, a former minister of Egyptian antiquities, who was ousted due to accusations of corruption and illegally selling antiquities in 2011, has vehemently been saying since day one that there are no hidden chambers, and that Nefertiti will not be found behind the walls, because he already found her mummy several years ago, which was aired on a TV show, one of many he has hosted for the History Channel, National Geographic and others. He points to DNA testing to confirm the legitimacy of his discovery.
Seasoned Egyptologists will readily admit that DNA testing on any mummy is inconclusive. The pharaohs and queens all inter-married within the royal family to protect sovereign blood lines, so any mummy found within a cache or “family” of mummies, would have similar DNA, rendering positive identification almost impossible.
Royal mummies were often moved from their initial burial site, sometimes put in used coffins, stripped of identification (and jewels), as was the case with the unknown mummy Hawass claims is his Nefertiti. In Egypt, as everywhere else in the world, DNA analysis is not a perfect science. Consequently, many questioned Hawass’ stance that he had actually found the real Nefertiti. But to challenge him, while he was still minister, was considered professional suicide.
The problem with Hawass is that he hates to be proven wrong. He also doesn’t like to watch from the sidelines while another Egyptologist, especially a foreign one such as Nicholas Reeves, might get credit for what could turn out to be the discovery of the century. It is no secret Hawass has openly challenged and ridiculed Reeves every step of the way, threatening that Reeves “would never be allowed to test his theory.”
Many authored Egyptologists, often allude in their books to Hawass dismissing their initial findings, sometimes even shutting down their digs or denying them further access, only to come back at a later time, when everyone is gone, and take credit for their discovery. Access to ancient sites, meant pandering to Hawass. Is it any wonder the man has made plenty of enemies over the years, resulting in his swift ouster during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising and regime change. Many Egyptologists say that while Hawass has done much to preserve ancient history during his reign as antiquities minister, he also did much to suppress important findings.
After his fall from professional grace, Hawass vowed to make a comeback. Towards this end, insiders currently believe he has been working behind the scenes to sow seeds of doubt and dissension between all parties, including the current minister of antiquities Khaled El-Enany, and the recently replaced minster, Mamdouh Eldamaty, who declared he was “90 percent” certain that such hidden chambers exist. Hawass may have been ousted from direct power, but he still seems to think he wields a mighty sword of influence behind the scenes. He may be right.
No one is sure why National Geographic abruptly pulled the plug, claiming nothing is there, when others have found evidence to the contrary, but insiders allege that Hawass might somehow be behind it. Hawass’ relationship with the National Geographic Society goes way back. In fact, it was because of some of the contracts he illegally made with National Geographic, without required Egyptian government authorization, which contributed to him being accused of corruption charges for personal profit. Insiders theorize that Hawass may, once again, have his own agenda and timeline for this potential new discovery.
Archaeologist Howard Carter, who discovered King Tut’s untouched tomb hidden under another tomb in 1922, may not have thought to look any further in his tomb search. In 1998, when the Amarna Royal Tombs Project was granted permission to search for new tombs in the Valley of the Kings, Nicholas Reeves recalled the information once given by Egypt’s infamous seer Om Sety. In the book, Om Sety’s Egypt – A Story of Ancient Mysteries, Secret Lives, and the Lost History of the Pharaohs, by Hanny el Zeini and Catherine Dees, Om Sety talked about Nefertiti’s tomb:
Chapter 18, “She Who Waits: Finding Nefertiti (p. 265). “Now, about the tomb of Nefertiti”, [Omm Sety] continued, sounding a bit hesitant. “I did once ask His Majesty where it was, and he told me. He said, `Why do you want to know?` I said I would like to have it excavated, and he said, `No, you must not. We don`t want anything more of this family known`. But he did (p. 266) tell me where it was, and I can tell you this much. It`s in the Valley of the Kings, and it`s quite near to the Tutankhamun tomb. But it`s in a place where nobody would ever think of looking for it,” she laughed. “And apparently it is still intact.”
Debate continues to rage, as witnessed at this past weekend’s Second Annual Tutankhamun Grand Egyptian Museum Conference in Cairo. Over a hundred people watched the two former government ministers, Hawass and Eldamaty, sit onstage and angrily accuse each other of trying to drill holes into World Heritage Sites without proper permission.
The quarter-size hole needed in Tut’s tomb to put speculation to rest, would be drilled near the floor of the unpainted North wall (believed to be a false wall), and a small fiber optics camera would be inserted. No one is threatening to drill without permission. Permission to do so is what this entire drama is all about. They drilled holes even bigger in the hidden door found in the shaft of the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid during Hawass’ time. So this is really a power struggle between ego and politics.
Right now there are two different radar scans showing contradictory evidence. In Reeves’s theory, these doorways present several clues suggesting that the tomb was originally built for another ruler—Nefertiti, the principal wife of Akhenaten. It is not certain whether she is the biological mother of Tutankhamen, or if he is a stepson by another of Akhenaten’s wives. But if she is buried in the hidden chamber next to him, it would certainly support a maternal theory.
Nefertiti died suddenly in year three of Tutankhamun’s reign (1331 BC) and apparently vanished without a trace. When Tutankhamun himself died shortly into his rulership, at age 19, in all likelihood he was hurriedly buried in someone else’s finished tomb—someone with rank who had a tomb befitting a king. Tut’s current tomb is considered quite small, the size of a royal’s antechamber, not a full tomb. This is considered quite unusual for a king, even for one that had an uneventful and short reign. This would lead to the theory that it might be a partitioned double tomb. Perhaps, Om Sety was correct in saying that Nefertiti was buried close to Tutankhamun” where nobody would think to look,” (at least for centuries, that is).
I’m sure before long, we will all know the truth about Nefertiti’s final resting place. That should be the treasure of all treasures.
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