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Thursday, October 22, 2015
Short Story: Where is the tomb of Queen Nefertiti?
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.
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
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
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
Bird’s eye view of Tutankhamun’s tomb
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
the northern wall of Tutankhamun’s tomb
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
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
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.