Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1264, (1 - 7 October 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1264, (1 - 7 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

New discoveries in the Valley of the Kings?

Another step has been taken towards a new discovery inside Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, writes Nevine El-Aref from Luxor

New discoveries in the Valley of the Kings?
New discoveries in the Valley of the Kings?
Al-Ahram Weekly

Despite the hot weather, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty and British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves along with a scientific committee embarked on an inspection tour of the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor last week.
 
The aim of the visit was to carry out the first field examination of the north and west walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb, which Reeves suggests could hide two chambers, one of which could be the resting place of Tutankhamun’s stepmother Queen Nefertiti.
In early August, Reeves published a paper suggesting that the western and northern painted walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb could house secret passageways leading to the resting place of Nefertiti, the wife and chief consort of the monotheistic 18th-Dynasty King Akhenaten, Tutankhamun’s father.
 
 Reeves claims that he developed this theory after examination of digital scans of the tomb’s wall paintings carried out by the Madrid-based company Factum Arte, which produced a replica of Tutankhamun’s tomb near the rest house of archaeologist Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings on Luxor’s west bank.
He thinks that the western wall, which depicts a scene of 12 baboons that represent the 12 hours of the night, bears traces of a hidden doorway plastered over in antiquity that could lead to another Tutankhamun-period orbital storeroom similar to the already excavated annex.
Reeves suggests that the northern wall, which is decorated with a scene showing King Ay proceeding with an open-mouth burial ritual on the mummy of Tutankhamun, also hides Nefertiti’s resting place as traces of another doorway have been found blocked by an artificial wall painted in yellow.  
 
 A publication from the US Getty Conservation Institute in 2012 said that the decoration of the northern wall seems to be earlier than those of the southern, eastern and western walls, and this supports Reeves’s theory.
 
Reeves thinks that Tutankhamun’s tomb was originally carved for a super-queen, and this could have been Nefertiti.
On Monday on the steps of the boy king’s tomb before starting the exploration inside the tomb Reeves enthusiastically told Al-Ahram Weekly that “although we were not able to receive security clearance for the radar that would have been used to reveal what is concealed behind the north and west walls, we are embarking on this field trip inside Tutankhamun’s tomb to look for other features not present in the digital photos on which I have based my theory.”
“I also want to examine the ceiling of the tomb, as nobody has examined or published on it before, and it could give initial indications of my theory’s accuracy.”
After almost two hours inside Tutankhamun’s tomb Eldamaty announced that the examination had indicated that the theory may well be right as both the walls could hide chambers.
“There are scratches and marks and royal stamps on both the walls like those found on the entrance wall of Tutankhamun’s tomb when it was discovered intact in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter,” he said.
This indicates that the western and northern walls of the tomb could hide two chambers. Until now, Eldamaty told the Weekly, it had been impossible to identify the chambers. “They could be burial chambers, antechambers or galleries, but not the burial chamber of the beautiful Queen Nefertiti,” he asserted.
Eldamaty went on to say that he disagreed with Reeves on this point, suggesting that “one of these chambers could belong to Tutankhamun’s mother Queen Kiya.” He explained that the tomb of the boy king could originally have been meant as the tomb of his mother Kiya, but his sudden death led priests to dedicate a part of his mother’s tomb to him.
Eldamaty promised to announce the results of the scans of both walls on 4 November, the same day Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922.
Until the Japanese radar equipment is received, some have suggested that Eldamaty should carry out radar scanning with Egyptian radar equipment and then compare results in an attempt to verify them.
For his part, Reeves told the Weekly that the field investigation of the ceiling had revealed that the tomb’s ceiling extended behind the northern and western walls, “which confirms my theory suggesting the existence of two uncovered chambers”.
“Nothing more can be done now. We are still waiting for the security clearance of the radar device in order to make a big discovery,” Reeves said, adding that he was “very enthusiastic” about the work and pretty sure that a very important discovery could be made soon inside the golden king’s tomb.
“I will go wherever the evidence and the results of the radar take me,” he asserted, explaining that if the radar indicated the existence of a chamber behind the walls a tiny camera would be inserted and a way would be found to investigate it without damaging the painted walls.
 

He explained that the camera could be inserted from the top of the cliff, from the ground, from the outside of the tomb, or even from the ends of the walls, which are less painted.
 
 “We have to be very careful while inserting the camera as the vibrations could cause damage to the cliff itself, the tomb, or even to a yet undiscovered tomb,” Reeves pointed out, highlighting the fact that the Valley of the Kings could still contain more tombs.
In order to reveal the new chamber to the public, Reeves told the Weekly that the fresco paintings could be cut off the walls and put on display in a museum, for example in collaboration with Italian experts who had used such a technique in Pompeii in Italy.
“This is not an easy task, but it could be done if necessary,” Reeves said, who added “remember that what we were up against is still step one, and there are more steps to achieve the goal.”
 
It was a “brilliant theory”, he said, but concrete evidence could still show it to be untrue. “The best theories don’t always work,” Reeves concluded.
“Radar is tricky,” he said, especially in a terrain made of stone and with lots of reflections and cracks. As a result, the team had employed a skilled and experienced radar expert.
“We are dealing with a Japanese expert who is brilliant in the field. He is also an archaeologist who has uncovered several sites in Japan and South America,” Reeves said.
 
In the Valley of the Kings, tomb KV 63 was uncovered by American archaeologists using radar.
Eldamaty, Reeves and the scientific committee also paid a visit to Ay’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in order to compare its paintings and the location of its four magic bricks with those of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
According to ancient Egyptians rituals, the four magic bricks should be located in the middle of the four walls of the burial chamber in order to protect the deceased. In Tutankhamun’s burial chamber, Eldamaty said, the bricks were not located in the middle of the walls but a bit further away.
 
 “The change in the bricks’ location may have been made intentionally to disguise something behind the wall,” Eldamaty pointed out.
However, Khaled Al-Enani, director of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation and also a member of the scientific team, said there were many tombs in the Valley where magic bricks were not found in the middle of the burial chamber’s walls.
He told the Weekly that he thought the tomb of Ay was originally dug for Tutankhamun in order to be buried beside the tomb of his grandfather Amenhotep III and to announce his return to the god Amun after his father’s abandoning him to worship the one god Aten.
 
 Al-Enani continued that due to Tutankhamun’s sudden death he had had to be buried in 70 days after the completion of the mummification and his tomb had been incomplete. As a result, the only tomb that could house his mummy in the Valley was KV62, the current tomb.
 

He suggested that KV62 could originally have belonged to a queen, a noble, or Ay himself, which would explain why Ay took the tomb that was originally made for Tutankhamun but not used.
 

Eldamaty disagreed with this theory because the current tomb of Ay bears non-royal scenes such as a hunting scene which is only found in noblemen’s tombs and not in those of kings.
 

Therefore, he asserted that the current tomb of Ay was originally built for Ay when he was a vizier and not for Tutankhamun. The paintings and scenes inside the tomb were then developed to suit a king when Ay took the throne.
Archaeologist Mohamed Saleh, the former director of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, told the Weekly that he opposed this theory because he believed that nothing would be found behind the western and northern walls of the tomb.
 

Many archaeologists have searched for the tomb of Nefertiti in the Valley of the Kings and nothing has been found, he said. He added that such a theory was previously discussed 20 years ago by another British archaeologist who had carried out several excavations around Tutankhamun’s tomb and found nothing.

“But in my opinion, publishing such a theory is a good promotional exercise for Egypt,” Saleh said, adding that if it proved true than it could be a great discovery like the one of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
Archaeologist Zahi Hawass supported Saleh’s opinion that the theory would not lead to anything as there was “no burial chamber behind the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb.”

“The announcement of the theory is like a wave in the stagnant water of tourism, and it will attract the attention of people towards Egypt again. People are always astonished at new discoveries and hidden treasures,” Hawass said.
He said that the Japanese radar team working with Reeves was “not efficient”, however. “This team previously indicated the discovery of a tomb, but when excavations were carried out in the Valley of the Kings nothing was found,” Hawass said, adding that the ministry should hand over the examination to another more expert and neutral team in order to reach credible results.

Hawass also suggested adding more archaeologists to the scientific team supervising the studies, such as Egyptologist Jeffrey Martin who worked for a long time in the Valley of the Kings and was Reeves’ professor.

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