History

New Clues Point to Secret Chamber in King Tut Tomb

Preliminary analysis indicates the presence of an area different in its temperature than the other parts of the tomb's wall.

The investigation of King Tut's tomb to find secret chambers ended today with promising results, according to a statement from Egypt's antiquity ministry.

A team from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering and the Paris-based organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation used infrared thermography to detect the temperature of the walls in the tomb. Preliminary analysis indicates the presence of an area different in its temperature than the other parts of the northern wall.

"The experiment lasted for 24 hours," Egypt's Antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty said in a statement.

PHOTOS: Inside King Tut's Tomb

In order to certify the results, Eldamaty said, a number of experiments will be carried out to determine more accurately the area showing the difference in temperature.

"The team was very impressed and full of emotion to spend the night in the tomb," Mehdi Tayoubi, founder of the Paris-based Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute, told Discovery News.

The non-invasive search follows a claim by Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist at the University of Arizona, that high-resolution images of the tomb's walls show "distinct linear traces" pointing to the presence of two still unexplored chambers behind the western and northern walls of the tomb.

Tut's Funeral: Burying the Boy King

According to Reeves, one chamber contains the remains, and possibly the intact grave goods, of queen Nefertiti, the wife of the "heretic" monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaten, Tutankhamun's father.

He argued that a painting located behind King Tut's sarcophagus has been wrongly interpreted. Egyptologists have always believed the scene shows Ay (who largely directed King Tut's reign and succeeded him) performing the Opening of the Mouth ritual on the boy king.

Reeves believes the figure labelled Tutankhamun is actually Nefertiti. He noted that a line at the side of the figure's mouth, called "oromental groove," is a trademark in pictures of Nefertiti. On the other hand, the figure labelled Ay would be Tutankhamun, completing the death ritual for Nefertiti.

Weird Facts About King Tut and His Mummy

Reeves speculated that the tomb of King Tut was not ready when he died unexpectedly at 19 in 1323 B.C. after having ruled a short reign of nine to 10 years. Consequently, he was buried in a rush in what was originally Nefertiti's tomb, who had died 10 years earlier.

Reeves's claim about Nefertiti has stirred a debate among Egyptologists and mummy experts.

An international team of researchers led by mummy expert Frank Rühli, director of the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich, cautioned last month about the possibility of Nefertiti being the occupant of the secret crypt.

They argued Nefertiti might be the already found Younger Lady, a mummy found in 1898 by archaeologist Victor Loret in tomb KV35 in the Valley of the Kings.

Who Else May Be in King Tut's Tomb?

Nefertiti is labelled in inscriptions to be Tutankhamun's mother; genetic analyses identified the "Younger Lady" as the mother of Tutankhamun.

Such evidence would automatically rule out Nefertiti, the researchers concluded.

If a mummy is found, it could belong to the elusive pharaoh Smenkhkare, or to queen Meritaton, the full or half sister of Tutankhamun, they added.

It is also possible that nothing at all will be found behind those walls, they said.

Investigations in King Tut's tomb are expected to continue.

King Tut Felled by Malaria, Bone Disease

According to Eldamaty, a longer time is needed - one week or more - using the thermography technique in order to confirm the results. However it is not known when infrared thermography will be used again in King Tut's tomb.

In the meantime, other methods might be used to help identify the area with a temperature difference.

Howard Carter opens King Tut’s tomb.

King Tut's Mask

"Tutankhamun: His Tomb and the Treasures" is a new exhibition now in Zurich that has meticulously reconstructed the tomb complex and its treasures. Specially trained craftspeople in Cairo built more than 1,000 exact replicas under scientific supervision. The work took over five years. Here is a replica of the famous mask of King Tut, weighing 24 lbs, which was pressed over the head of the king's bandaged mummy. The idealized portrait of the young king echoes the style of the late Amarna period. The life-like eyes are formed by bright quartz, with obsidian inlays for the pupils.

King Tut, With Wife

This scene, depicted on the backrest of King Tut's throne, shows how Tutankhamen used to lean back in a relaxed manner while his wife, Anchesenamun, stood beside him and rubbed ointment into his shoulder.

Tomb Discovery

This is how the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun appeared to archaeologist Howard Carter when he discovered it in 1922.

King Tut's Tomb in 3-D

Tutankhamun's tomb and its contents, as viewed in a 3-D model. A corridor led to an antechamber and an annex filled with objects. The antechamber opened into the coffin chamber with King Tut's sarcophagus. The coffin chamber led to another small room filled with King Tut's treasures.

Treasures Galore

Two tiny mummified female fetuses were found in the tomb with the king. But they were not the only companions placed in the tomb for King Tut's journey to the afterlife. The boy king was buried with more than 5,000 priceless objects, including this treasure chest.

Boy Throne

The famous gold throne found in the tomb was ordered when Tutankhamen became king at the age of nine.

Lion Head

The dead king in the underworld was akin to the sun at night and, in the New Kingdom, this was identified with the god of death, Osiris. The heads of lions corresponded to the time the sun god spent in the body of the god of heaven in feline form. The facial details of the lion head –- the rims of the eyes, tip of the nose and tear ducts -- are given almost life-like properties through the use of glass.

Hired Help for the Afterlife

These figures were supposed to take the place of the king in performing the daily tasks that came up in the afterlife. A total of 413 of these figures, known as ushabtis, were found in Tutankhamun's tomb. Among the collection, 365 were responsible for carrying out day-to-day duties, 36 ushabtis served as overseers for groups of 10 workers each, and 12 acted as monthly supervisors