"After two nights of tests in the Valley of the Kings, new evidence reinforces the theory that undiscovered rooms may lie behind the painted walls.
LUXOR, Egypt—After two days of radar scans in the tomb of Tutankhamun, archaeologists have concluded that preliminary examination of the data provides evidence that unopened sections lie behind two hidden doorways in the pharaoh’s underground burial chamber.
The results, announced Saturday morning at a news conference in Luxor, bolster the theory of Nicholas Reeves, a British archaeologist who believes that the tomb contains another royal burial. The hidden tomb, he has speculated, belongs to Nefertiti, King Tut’s mother-in-law, who may have ruled as a female pharaoh during Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. If so, this would be only the second intact royal burial site to be discovered in modern times—and it would, in the words of Mamdouh Eldamaty, the Egyptian antiquities minister, represent “one of the most important finds of the century.” At the press conference, he said he was “90 percent positive” that another chamber lies behind the north wall of the tomb.
On Friday, Eldamaty stood next to that wall, which is painted with a scene depicting the burial rituals of the boy pharaoh, who ruled in the 14th century B.C. “The radar scan tells us that on this side of the north wall, we have two different materials,” he said. “We believe that there could be another chamber.”
The scans—conducted by Hirokatsu Watanabe, a Japanese radar specialist— also provide evidence of a second hidden doorway in the adjoining west wall.
Together these features lend credence to Reeves’s theory, which he made public in July. Since then examinations of the physical features of the burial chamber have added support. But until the tests began on Thursday, the evidence ran no deeper than the surface of the walls. Radar scans had never previously been conducted in the tomb, and they represent a crucial step in the investigation. For the first time, specialists have collected data about both the material structure of the walls and the open spaces behind them. It’s these spaces that are most intriguing—they could contain artifacts and possibly even burial goods that rival those found with Tutankhamun.
“Everything is adding up,” Reeves, a National Geographic grantee, told me on Thursday evening, immediately after a suspenseful examination with the radar. We were standing next to the north wall, whose painted scene has been visible since 1922, when Howard Carter rediscovered the tomb. But after observing the scans, I found that the wall looked different to me—I couldn’t help but imagine what may lie beyond. “The tomb is not giving up its secrets easily,” Reeves continued. “But it is giving them up, bit by bit. It’s another result. And nothing is contradicting the basic direction of the theory.” ...
... The work started at midday with a test scan in a nearby tomb called KV5, where Watanabe used the machine to examine walls with known features behind them. Within half an hour, he was drenched in sweat—the deeper reaches of tombs in Luxor are hot and airless. But the results showed the machine was working well, as did a second test run along another wall that is already known to have a room behind it, this time in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
By 7 o’clock, Watanabe seemed re-energized, and he was ready to scan the west wall of the burial chamber, which Reeves believes contains a blocked-in doorway. There were around two dozen people in the tomb: Eldamaty, Reeves, Abbas Mohamed, an Egyptian professor of applied and environmental geophysics, a couple of journalists from the Egyptian state press, and film crews from National Geographic and Tokyo Broadcasting System Television. (The investigation—supported, in part, by the National Geographic Society—is being documented for a National Geographic Channel special to premiere globally in 2016.) ...
... Slowly, Watanabe began to push the trolley at a distance of five to seven centimeters from the wall, watching a computer screen that was perched on top. The room was completely silent. I had the feeling that I was watching some strange performance art: All the attention in the room, and around ten cameras, were aimed at Watanabe, who moved with excruciating slowness, like an elderly man struggling to push a cart in a supermarket.
After going halfway, he aborted. He fiddled with the machine for a moment, and then he called out in Japanese, “Can I have a piece of string?” Someone scurried off to get a rope. ...
... After the aborted scan, Watanabe tinkered with the radar machine and decided that he didn’t need the string after all. The room hushed, and he began to push the cart along the wall once more. After moving a little more than half of the distance, he broke the silence: “They changed the material here.”
This was exactly the point at which there seemed to be a doorway on the Factum Arte scans. Watanabe is not an Egyptologist, and he had not studied Reeves’s ideas closely, but what he observed on the radar matched up. He did one more scan of the west wall, and then he proceeded to the north. “It’s just a solid wall,” he called out, at the beginning. He reached the section of the wall that Reeves had proposed was a blocked-over partition. “There is a change from here,” Watanabe announced.
After he was finished, he studied the multicolored bars that ran across the computer screen. “Obviously it’s an entrance to something,” he said through a translator. “It’s very obvious that this is something. It’s very deep.”
He scanned the wall again and confirmed the initial reading. Reeves asked him if he wanted to do another round. “I don’t need to,” Watanabe said. “It’s good data.” ..."