INTERVIEW: Egypt's antiquities minister speaks on the search for Nefertiti in Tutankhamun’s tomb

Nevine El-Aref , Nevine El-Aref , Friday 2 Oct 2015

Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty tells Ahram Online his expectations and plans regarding Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves' theory on the location of Nefertiti’s crypt

The tomb of King Tut is displayed in a glass case at the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015. (Photo: AP)

Ahram Online spoke with Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty regarding an upcoming radar scan of Tutankhamun’s tomb to determine if Queen Nefertiti is buried in a hidden chamber.

The theory that Nefertiti may be buried in Tutankhamun’s tomb was introduced by Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves.

Ahram Online (AO): What is your opinion about Reeves' theory, and could it be true?

Minister: It is a respectable scientific theory that could prove right or wrong, and when examining the west and north walls of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber, I realised that all the evidence that Reeves mentioned regarding the existence of hidden chambers is true.

I also noticed an area on a wall where the type of stone used was different than that in other walls. It is covered in painted plaster with the purpose of hiding something.

I am 75 percent certain we will find chambers behind both walls, but not one containing Nefertiti.

If the theory proves true and we locate Nefertiti’s resting place, we would be facing a discovery that would overshadow the uncovering of the golden king himself. This would be the most important discovery of the 21st century.

However, if we find the tomb of another royal member or an extension of Tutankhamun’s tomb, the discovery would be on par with the original discovery of the king's tomb in the 20th century.

(AO): Why do you think Nefertiti is not in theburial chamber?

Minister: First, because Nefertiti cannot by any means be buried in the Valley of the Kings, since she, along with her husband Akhenaten, abandoned the Amun cult for the god Aten, and Thebes is the city of Amun.

Second, I am totally against Reeves’ theory that the scene on the north wall shows Tutankhamun performing the "opening of the mouth" ritual on Nefertiti’s mummy, when the inscriptions clearly state that the ritual is being performed by Ay on Tutankhamun.

Reeves based his interpretation of this scene on the facial features of the people depicted, which is not sufficient as the artists of the 18th dynasty were commissioned to do several murals, which would account for the facial similarities. 

(AO): If it is not Nefertiti’s burial chamber, to whom could this tomb belong?

Minister: The hidden chamber could be for another woman like one of Tutankahmun’s sisters or his mother Kiya.

It could also belong to Queen Meritaten, the wife of King Smenkare,who succeeded Akhenaten and resumed the worshipping of the god Amun.

Smenkare was buried in tomb number KV55, located in front of Tutankhamun’s tomb, so it is likely that Meritaten could be buried in the tomb in front of her husband.

(AO): Why did you examine the royal tombs of kings connected to Tutankahmun, and what did you find?

Minister: We examined the tombs of Horemhab, Ay, Amenhotep II and KV55.

In Horemhab's tomb, we found that the wall at the far side, which is similar to the north wall in Tutankhamun’s burial chamber, hides behind it an extension of the tomb which was previously closed and painted over.

In Amenhotep II’s tomb, we realised that the king’s burial chamber is located at the left side of the tomb, which follows the usual ancient Egyptian plan for kings’ tombs. But in Tutankhamun’s tomb, the plan is different, as the burial chamber is found at the right side of the tomb, which is a design made only for queens’ tombs.

In Ay’s tomb, we examined the magical niches and found that they are located in their usual position in the middle of the walls of the burial chamber, but in Tutankhamun' case they are not found in this location.

All the evidence we found in the tombs we visited indicates that Tutankhamun’s burial chamber is different than its counterparts in the Valley of the Kings.

This difference shows that this burial chamber was extended and closed quickly in antiquity to bury King Tutankhamun, who died suddenly. As for the tomb itself, I see that it was eventually used for Tutankhamun, but was not originally constructed for him.

Hence, one or more chambers or even a corridor that leads to another tomb may be found hidden in Tutankhamun’s burial chamber.

(AO): What does the ministry intend on doing before the beginning of the radar scan?

Minister: In the upcoming period, a master plan is to be submitted to the Permanent Committee to have its approval on using several non-invasive radar devices from Egypt, Japan and other countries in order to have more than one test.

I will carry out our own radar research in cooperation with the scientific team in order to reach a result, which is to be compared with the Japanese radar test to take place at the end of November after receiving security clearance.

(AO): What if the radar indicates there is nothing behind the walls?

Minister: That would be a discovery in itself. We are following the evidence we notice in the tomb until we uncover the real truth.

(AO): What is your response to Reeves' claim that Tutankhamun’s funerary mask and 80 percent of his burial treasure belonged originally to Nefertiti?

Minister: I cannot respond to this because the mask and the treasure bear inscriptions and cartouches of the name of Tutankhamun, so they certainly belonged to him.

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