There is a 90 percent chance the tomb of King Tutankhamun contains a hidden chamber, Egypt's antiquities minister said on Saturday at the end of a three-day probe in the boy king's burial.
The investigation included for the first time the use of radar scans and focused mainly on the northern wall of the tomb.
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"We said earlier there was a 60 percent chance there is something behind the walls. But now after the initial reading of the scans, we are saying now its 90 percent likely there is something behind the walls," Minister of Antiquity Mamdouh al-Damaty said at a news conference.
The new findings booster 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.
"It does look from the radar evidence as if the tomb of Tutankhamun is a corridor tomb and it continues beyond the decorated burial chamber," Reeves said at the press conference.
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Earlier this month infrared thermography, carried out by a team from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering and the Paris-based organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation, showed "differences in the temperatures registered on different parts of the northern wall" of the tomb.
Damati stressed the radar results are preliminary and that a month is needed to analyze the scans.
Carried out by Japanese radar specialist Hirokatsu Watanabe, the radar scans also hint to the presence of a second hidden doorway in the western wall.
According to Reeves, the hidden chamber would contain the remains, and possibly the intact grave goods, of queen Nefertiti, wife of the "heretic" monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaten, Tutankhamun's father.
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 the tomb of Nefertiti, who had died 10 years earlier.
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Reeves's claim about Nefertiti being the occupant of the secret crypt left several experts more than skeptical.
Damati himself believes the hidden chamber may contain the mummy of Kiya, a wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten.
Zahi Hawass, the country's former antiquities minister, believes there are no hidden tombs at all behind the walls of King Tut's burial chamber.
"I had already headed an Egyptian excavation mission in the Valley of the Kings and proved that the claim was invalid," Hawass wrote in the Egypt Independent.
An international team of researchers led by mummy expert Frank Rühli, director of the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich, also cautioned last month about the Nefertiti claim.
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"Queen Nefertiti might be the already found Younger Lady," Rühli said.
The "Younger Lady" is a mummy found in 1898 by archaeologist Victor Loret in tomb KV35 in the Valley of the Kings.
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, Rühli and colleagues concluded.
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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.
"The possible findings range from nothing at all or unfinished and closed corridors to storage chambers or intact burials with treasures," Rühli told Discovery News.