Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Where is the tomb of Queen Nefertiti?

There is no evidence to support the theory that the tomb of Queen Nefertiti lies behind the walls of the tomb of Tutankhamun, writes Zahi Hawass

Where is the tomb of Queen Nefertiti?
Where is the tomb of Queen Nefertiti?
Al-Ahram Weekly

British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves has written an article advancing the theory that there are hidden rooms behind the walls of the tomb of Tutankhamun. He has based this theory on the Factum Arte data produced by Adam Lowe for the Friends of the Valley of the Kings Association and the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Reeves is thus completely depending on secondary materials rather than on any primary sources.

He claims that there are rooms located behind the north and west walls of the tomb of Tutankhamun and that this tomb had a much earlier design prior to being used to house Tutankhamun. Finally, he believes that Queen Nefertiti was buried there.

He has made additional statements to the effect that the scene in the tomb showing King Ay performing the religious ritual known as the Opening of the Mouth actually portrays Tutankhamun performing the ritual for Queen Nefertiti and that she ruled after the death of Akhenaten under the name of Smenkhkare.

 Others have claimed that this tomb was not designed for Nefertiti, but for Kiya, who in Reeves’s opinion was the mother of Tutankhamun. These statements were made during the tenure of the late Gamal Mokhtar as the head of antiquities in Egypt. Mokhtar completely rejected the theory, and I also thought that it had been put forward before by another scholar. I thought it could help in drawing attention to Egypt without giving still more publicity to Reeves.

 Any scholar who knows archaeology should discuss his theory in the presence of scholars who know the Valley of the Kings and are working there now. Instead, this theory was analysed by Egyptologists who have never worked in the valley or written a single article on Tutankhamun or his tomb. Reeves has gained a lot of publicity for saying nothing.

At the same time, it has been said that Reeves is bringing Japanese radar to Egypt to look at what is behind the walls of the tomb. Here, we should go back to when Reeves was a member of the expedition working under Geoffrey Martin, who brought Japanese radar equipment and identified the location of KV63. He published the location of the new tomb on his website and even drew a plan of it.

I started the first Egyptian expedition to excavate in the Valley of the Kings and began the work in front of the tomb of Tutankhamun, working in the same spot that Reeves has indicated. But what he has interpreted as a tomb is actually a crack in the rock. When Otto Schaden from Memphis State University found the true location of KV63, Reeves announced that it had in fact been his idea, and as a result he lost my respect.

Moreover, according to scientists, radar is not useful in archaeology and has not been used to make discoveries. The use of radar in this case is simply designed to give more publicity to Reeves. According to Hani Halal, a former minister of higher education, radar is useless, but a new technique called infrared thermography can tell us the location of doors and rooms behind tomb walls.

 I believe that Reeves’s theory has no scientific basis because the 3D photographs he used cannot be used to give correct readings and anything can be imagined from them. Reeves has imagined his information and used it to pursue his habit of always saying things to attract the media.

In conversation with a scholar who has worked at the Valley of the Kings, we discussed the theory and agreed that the traces on the walls of KV62 are based on a reading of the publication of Factum Arte’s work. They are merely the traces of the chisels of the ancient masons and the outlines of two doors that were never carved. It is premature to suggest that the doors give access to hitherto undiscovered chambers containing the tomb of Nefertiti.

The great Egyptologist Howard Carter worked inside the tomb for ten years. If anything was behind those walls he would have found it. When archaeologists find a tomb, they look everywhere to discern if anything is hidden behind the walls.

I remember visiting Otto Schaden when he was working to record the artifacts in KV63. He said that he would look to see if anything was hidden behind the walls of one room of the tomb during the next season.

Carter also removed the plaster from the niches that contained the five magic bricks in the tomb of Tutankhamun. If you examine the photographs taken by Harry Burton, you can see that there is no indication of the existence of a room behind the wall.

Queen Nefertiti left Thebes after her husband Akhenaten, and she is shown worshipping Aten with him in murals. She bore him six daughters. It can also be believed that she ruled for a few years and changed her name to Smenkhkare, but there is no way that the priests of Amun would have let her be buried in the Valley of the Kings.

I think she was buried at Amarna, like Akhenaten, and that her mummy could have been moved to Thebes later, as happened when Tutankhamun moved the mummy of his father Akhenaten to Tomb 55. When DNA analysis was carried out on the remains of the two fetuses and the mummy in KV21, this research showed that the mummy belonged to Queen Ankhesenamun, the daughter of Nefertiti and the wife of Tutankhamun.

In the tomb, beside this mummy, there was also a headless mummy. I believe that this could be the mummy of Nefertiti, who was buried beside her daughter, as was the case in KV35, where Queen Tiye’s mummy was found next to the mummy of her daughter, known as the Younger Lady.

KV62, which was used for the burial of Tutankhamun, was originally made for Ay, but because of the sudden death of Tutankhamun he was buried there instead. The tomb then used for the burial of Ay in the Valley of the Monkeys is similar to KV62.

The existence of a tomb within a tomb is not found during Dynasty 18, but it happens in Dynasty 19. Tutankhamun also would never have been buried in the tomb of his stepmother, further discounting Reeves’s theory that Nefertiti was originally buried there.

He has suggested that the scene on the north wall does not show Ay performing the Opening of the Mouth ritual for Tutankhamun, but Tutankhamun performing it for Nefertiti. I cannot believe that any scholar could write this, because we see the names of Ay and Tutankhamun written above the scene and no mention of Queen Nefertiti.

Reeves says that the golden mask of Tutankhamun belonged to Nefertiti and not to Tutankhamun because of a hole in its ear. If he had read any basic books on ancient Egyptian art, he would know that holes in the ear have been found on both males and females from this time.

I have talked to almost all the scholars who are working in the valley and are experts on this period, and all of them have rejected this theory and do not want to be involved in this non-scientific dialogue.

KV32 and KV21 provide the template for queenly tombs in the Valley, and they do not have a corridor that turns right but have straight axes or, if anything, have one that turns left. The cultic design of the tomb is also problematic.

The architecture of the tombs was dictated by a series of required rooms, the exact layout and disposition of which were dictated as much by the practical possibilities offered by the rock as anything else.

The entrance corridor of KV62 was so small that Howard Carter had to cut away the door jambs to remove the shrine panels. If there was a larger tomb hidden within KV62, the first thing the ancient masons would surely have done would have been to enlarge the corridor, as was done in KV55.

In order to construct the panels around the sarcophagus, the north wall would have to have been painted first so that all the panels could be rested against this wall while they were set around the sarcophagus.

Tutankhkamun’s burial goods contained many items prepared for another individual. As Reeves himself has pointed out, many of these (the shabtis in particular) have a feminine form. It is entirely possible that these grave goods originally belonged to a set of burial equipment prepared for Nefertiti as king. The very fact that these goods were made available for Tutankhamun suggests Nefertiti was not buried as a king and that her likely final resting place is at Amarna.

I have to give credit to Mamdouh Eldamaty, the minister of antiquities, who has been able to draw international attention to Egypt. But he needs to look at the evidence to stop this man who uses his imagination to announce nonsense. I suggest that he invite foreign scholars to give their opinions.

Finally, if we really thought there were rooms behind the walls of the tomb, what would we do? Would we make holes in the painted walls? All this is evidence that proves that this theory is dust and that it will eventually fly away with the wind.

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