Friday, June 10, 2016

Tutankhamun's Tomb

Do you have an update on the secret chambers in Tutankhamun's tomb?

Yes, I do.  A couple of students asked about this, and it is gratifying that they care about these historical mysteries.

It has long been known that many of the grave goods were not originally crafted for Tut, but were re-purposed goods made for someone else.  Nicholas Reeves, a highly-regarded Egyptologist from the University of Arizona, claims that most of the grave goods were originally for a mysterious female pharaoh known as "Neferneferuaten," who was probably Nefertiti.  The most famous artifact from the tomb, Tut's death mask, was clearly retrofitted by cutting the face off and replacing it with Tut's face.  Reeves found evidence that there was originally an inscription inside identifying Nefertiti as the owner; that inscription was scratched out and replaced with Tut's name.

Other people have pointed out that Tut's tomb itself seems to have originally been made for someone other than Tut.  They had to cut into the walls to make room for the sarcophagus, and the shape of the tomb is more typical of a queen's tomb than a king's.  Since we haven't located Nefertiti's tomb, some people speculate that Tut's tomb was originally meant for her, and that she may have been hastily buried somewhere else (or some other random thing happened to her mummy).

Reeves developed a theory that the tomb is actually Nefertiti's, and  that she is not buried elsewhere - but she is still inside that tomb!  He looked carefully at images of the walls and noticed evidence that there might be hidden chambers behind a wall in the same room where Tut's sarcophagus was.  He started to believe that the ancient Egyptians took an existing tomb and built walls to retrofit it into a new tomb for Tut.

Evidence to support Reeves' theory mounted earlier this year when Japanese radar expert Hirokatsu Watanabe used ground-penetrating radar to show that there may be hidden chambers.  Watanabe said the images shows the presence of metals and organic material within the chambers, which obviously would be consistent with a hidden tomb.

Some Egyptian tourism officials were excited about these findings, since visits to Egypt have dropped off as a result of political turmoil.  Perhaps a major discovery would be able to bring people back.

Other experts were not convinced.  Former Egypt Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass was skeptical of the claims, and other radar experts interpreted Watanabe's scans as being inconclusive.  In March and April of this month there was a large, well-coordinated effort to duplicate Watanabe's results.

Egyptian officials stalled on issuing the results, and they have been reticent to publicize them, mainly because the more detailed scans indicate that there are no hidden chambers.

As for me, I still hope they find something, but I doubt it.  I am especially disappointed in further research into Watanabe's scans.  He enthusiastically claimed that there almost certainly were hidden chambers, although most experts say that his scans don't show any evidence.  Watanabe has an eccentric way of interpreting results that he refuses to explain to anybody.  It seems Watanabe may have been using this as a means of self-promotion and not as a serious attempt to further scientific inquiry. 

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