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Infrared imaging conducted inside King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt has raised hopes that it has a hidden chamber, which would be in line with archaeologist Nicholas Reeves’ recently published suggestions that another royal burial chamber could be discovered there. And there’s more to come.

Eldamaty with camera
Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty holds an infrared camera that can scan the walls of King Tutakhamun’s tomb for temperature differences. (Credit: MInistry of Antiquities via Facebook)

Could the chamber have been built for Queen Nefertiti, thought to be Tut’s stepmother? Or for Kiya, a lesser wife of Tut’s father, Akhenaten? Could there be intact remains and 3,300-year-old treasures inside, as there were when Tutakhamun was discovered almost exactly 93 years ago in 1922?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves: So far, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has said only that a preliminary analysis of the infrared scans “indicates the presence of an area different in its temperature than the other parts of the northern wall.”

Further scans will be needed to confirm the results and pinpoint the area of temperature difference, the ministry said. But if the effect is confirmed, it could be caused by an open space behind the wall, which wouldn’t hold heat as well as the solid rock or soil surrounding other parts of the tomb.

That would be consistent with Reeves’ claim that there’s a continuation of Tut’s tomb lying beyond the boy-king’s burial chamber as it’s seen today, a space “containing the undisturbed burial of the tomb’s original owner – Nefertiti.” He said another hidden storeroom may lie beyond the western wall.

Reeves, who’s director of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project and senior archaeologist with the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition, made his claims on the basis of Factum Arte’s recent high-resolution images of the chamber’s walls. He said the images appeared to show the “ghosts” of hitherto-unrecognized doorways that had been covered over. When he published his paper on the subject this summer, it sounded like the stuff of an Indiana Jones movie. But the infrared scanning project’s initial results add weight to Reeves’ hypothesis.

Reeves argues that the ancient tomb started out as Nefertiti’s burial place, with a false wall erected to throw off would-be looters. Tutankhamun’s death at the age of 19 might have been so unexpected that he didn’t have a proper tomb of his own, Reeves says. In this scenario, the boy-king might have had to share his mother’s tomb, with additional stonework done to separate the chambers and add yet another layer of concealment.

The preliminary infrared survey is part of the Ministry of Antiquities’ project to conduct high-tech surveys of ancient Egyptian sites, including two of the Great Pyramids at Giza and the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur. The project, known as Scan Pyramids, makes use of infrared scanning as well as cosmic ray mapping and 3-D measurements made with lasers and drones.

The ministry said a “very important press conference” about the preliminary results from Scan Pyramids would take place near the Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) at Giza on Monday. Stay tuned…

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