VALLEY OF THE KINGS, Egypt (AP) — Egypt on Friday invited archaeologists from all over the world to examine new, more extensive scanning conducted on King Tutankhamun’s tomb to discover whether chambers have been hidden for millennia behind two walls in the boy king’s burial place and determine what could be inside.
The open invitation, issued by Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anani at a news conference just outside the tomb in the Valley of the Kings, holds a double purpose. First, it would bring broader scientific review to the new exploration of the tomb, which was prompted by a theory advanced by British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves.
Also, the mystery is a golden opportunity for Egypt to boost its deeply damaged tourism industry by drawing world attention to its wealth of pharaonic antiquities. Adding to the allure: Reeves believes secret chambers behind a false wall may be the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, one of the most famous symbols of ancient Egypt and classical beauty.
If chambers — whether containing Nefertiti’s tomb or not — are discovered behind the western and northern walls covered in hieroglyphs and bas-reliefs in Tut’s tomb, it would likely be the biggest discovery in Egyptology since Howard Carter first discovered the king’s 3,300-year-old burial chamber and its treasures in 1922.
Tantalizingly, Egyptian officials said scans carried out earlier suggested that there was a “90 percent” chance that there were two open spaces behind the walls, perhaps containing metallic and biological matter.
“I believe and I still believe” that the Tut’s tomb is “simply the outer elements of a larger tomb that is of Nefertiti,” Reeves told the press conference.
Reeves’ theory was prompted by the unusual structure of Tut’s tomb. It is smaller than other royal tombs and oriented differently. Furthermore, his examination of photos uncovered what appear to be the outlines of a filled-in doorframe in one wall.
He has speculated that Tutankhamun, who died at age 19, may have been rushed into an outer chamber of what was originally Nefertiti’s tomb. Nefertiti was one of the wives of Tut’s father Akhenaten, though another wife Kia is believed to be Tut’s mother.
Egypt’s archaeologists announced Friday they completed more extensive scanning of the supposedly two hidden chambers. The 12-hour process involved five different levels of the walls and produced 40 scans. The data will be analyzed by U.S.-based experts, but the results would not be known for at least another week.
Another radar scan will be carried out at the end of the month. It will be done vertically from atop the hill above the tomb, using equipment with a range of about 40 meters (yards).
El-Anani, the antiquities minister, invited Egyptologists and Valley of the Kings experts to attend a conference on Tut to be held at Egypt’s new national museum near the Giza Pyramids outside Cairo. There, they can discuss the findings. The outcome will guide what course of action Egypt takes.
Egypt’s pharaonic sites were once the country’s main tourism draw. But cities like Luxor, across the Nile from the Valley of the Kings, have suffered heavily from the plunge in tourism amid turmoil since the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Now, visits to Egypt’s beaches have also been devastated since the crash of a Russian airliner in October over the Sinai Peninsula that killed all 224 people onboard. Russia said it was downed by an explosive device.