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Inside King Tut's tomb
Japanese radar expert Hirokatsu Watanabe scans the walls of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber. (Credit: National Geographic Channel via YouTube)

Radar scans have turned up fresh evidence of hidden chambers beyond the walls of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities reported today.

The scans were supervised by Japanese radar specialist Hirokatsu Watanabe on Thursday and Friday. They add to the evidence from thermal infrared imaging and a close examination of the chamber’s northern and western walls. Egyptian officials gave the go-ahead for the scans to check out archaeologist Nicholas Reeves’ claim that the 3,300-year-old tomb was originally meant for Tut’s stepmother, Nefertiti, and retrofitted after the boy-king’s untimely death.

In a Facebook posting, the ministry said the preliminary readings “reveal a vacancy behind the northern wall of the tomb, which strongly indicates the existence of a new burial chamber.” Further analysis will be required over the next month, but the ministry said there was hope that “an enormous archaeological discovery will be declared soon.”

The high-tech surveys of Tut’s tomb are being conducted by an international team of experts in conjunction with a wider survey of ancient Egyptian sites known as Scan Pyramids. The latest results were detailed today at a news conference in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, and in a lengthy National Geographic report. Reeves is a National Geographic grantee as well as director of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project and senior archaeologist with the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition.

Watanabe conducted the surveys by rolling a specially modified radar machine along the walls of the burial chamber. He picked up readings that were consistent with Reeves’ view that the door to a storage chamber had been filled in on the western wall. And when Watanabe turned to the northern wall, the radar readings hinted at another blocked-up entryway leading to a chamber of significant size.

“It’s very obvious that this is something,” National Geographic quoted Watanabe as saying. “It’s very deep.”

Watanabe also used the equipment inside KV5, the nearby tomb of King Rameses II’s sons, as a test case. “What lies beneath this tomb is already known, a matter that facilitates the comparison between it and that of King Tut,” the ministry explained.

If the evidence holds up after further review, Egyptian officials will have to decide what to do about it. How do you explore mysterious chambers that may (or may not) lie on the other side of priceless painted walls?

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