It’s been close to a century since the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb at Egypt’s Valley of the Kings in Luxor, and no find since has matched it in public fascination and “golden splendor.” But that may be about to change, because digital scans of Tut’s tomb have revealed secret doorways that researchers think could contain the biggest discovery in Egypt since the Tomb itself: the burial site of his maybe-mother, Queen Nefertiti.

“We are likely on the verge of the discovery matching that of King Tut’s tomb,” Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said Thursday.

The announcement is based on the controversial work of University of Arizona Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves, who discovered what he believes to be the outlines two doors hidden behind frescoes in Tut’s burial chamber.

“This is a conclusion based upon completely new evidence yielded by a technology to which previous generations had no access — the digital scanning of surfaces,” Reeves said Thursday. “More extraordinary still, it looks as if one of these doorways may lead to the burial of Nefertiti herself.”

His hypothesis is that the Nefertiti was a female pharaoh, and she was actually buried in the tomb first, with Tut’s interment there as a relative afterthought. Tut’s funerary assemblage looks like one originally designed for a woman, he argues, pointing to the ear piercings on the boy king’s famous mask as one example.

Reeves says the size of Tut’s tomb, which only has four rooms, is suspiciously small compared to those of other pharaohs, which means it’s likely the doors lead to additional chambers.

But Reeves has also been the target of some sniping from rival Egyptologists, who say he’s too optimistic about the pet theory he’s been pushing for the past five years.

“I had already headed an Egyptian excavation mission in the Valley of the Kings and proved that the claim was invalid,” said Zahi Hawass, a former Egyptian Antiquities minister, to Egyptian daily Al Masri al Youm.

“Perhaps the ministry should have assigned a neutral team to conduct the examination so as to assert credibility.”


In August, University of Bristol Egyptologist Aidan Dobson threw more shade on Reeves in a National Geographic feature, writing that a second burial chamber is the least likely possibility for what’s beyond those doors:

“In decreasing levels of likelihood, the marks could be: traces left by the quarrymen who cut the burial chamber that just happen to look a bit like doors; the beginnings of doors that were never finished (there are examples of such in many tombs); doors to additional store chambers (which Reeves proposes for one of them); a door to a store chamber and a door to a second burial chamber. I would suggest that the last of these is a remote option at best.”

Reeves self-published his research, Dobson added, which only made his theory seem more suspect.

Whichever side you’re on, it seems the most contentious beef in the Egyptology game is finally about to be settled: El-Damaty says Egypt plans to move forward “immediately” with a non-invasive radar scan of the alleged hidden chambers, which could be complete as early as November.

[h/t USA Today, Photo: AP Images]