An investigation of King Tut's tomb to find secret chambers will begin tomorrow and will last until Friday, Egypt's Minister of Antiquity announced on Wednesday.
The announcement, reported in the Egyptian media, comes on the 93rd anniversary of the tomb's discovery in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. On this day in 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter found the entrance to King Tutankhamun's treasure-filled tomb.
A team from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering and the Paris-based organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation will investigate the tomb using infrared thermography.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
An examination of King Tut's tomb in September revealed several unusual features, such as a contrast in the materials that cover different parts of the same wall and an extended ceiling which suggests King Tut's burial chamber was originally a corridor.
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After the visual examination, Egypt's Antiquities minister Mamdouh al-Damaty agreed it was very likely that there were hidden chambers in the tomb.
However, he disagreed with Reeves on the Nefertiti claim.
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 possibility of Nefertiti being the occupant of the secret crypt.
"Queen Nefertiti might be the already found Younger Lady," Rühli said.
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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, the researchers 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.