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Archeologist Believes He's Found Egyptian Queen Nefertiti's Tomb


When archaeologist Howard Carter opened its door in 1922, King Tut's tomb stunned the world with its intact beauty and golden treasures. Now, one archaeologist believes he's detected, hidden behind Tut, the door to the tomb of an even greater Egyptian royal, Queen Nefertiti. She is legendary for her beauty, her power, great as the pharaohs, and that she could be the mother of Tutankhamun. Archaeologist Nicholas Reeves came up with his hypothesis after spending more than a year studying laser scans used to create an exact replica of King Tut's burial chamber. The Egyptian government commissioned the replica to ease tourist pressure on the real one. Those scanned images allowed Reeves to literally peer through the exquisite frescoes of royals and animals that still cover the walls.

NICHOLAS REEVES: Now, in these surface scans, you can see every ripple and texture and bump and lump and line. And it's these that I've been interpreting because any new piece of evidence related to Tutankhamun is rare. So I was looking at this as a matter of course and, of course, hoping that there might be something there.

MONTAGNE: The notion is is that there's another tomb behind Tutankhamun's tomb. When you look at these scanned images, specifically what do you suspect they're showing?

REEVES: There is information on two of the four walls. The first lot of information is on the west wall. I believe it's possible to see traces of a doorway there which leads into a room, very similar to the annex, which is Tutankhamun-period storeroom filled with 2000 or so objects.

MONTAGNE: Fabulous objects, I must say.

REEVES: (Laughter) Fabulous objects, but the really interesting stuff is going on beneath the north wall.

MONTAGNE: A wall that he says, once you peer through it, suggests a large hidden passage. And that led Reeves to his idea that is Nefertiti's lost tomb because that passage seems to continue on from an actual staircase.

REEVES: The tomb of Tutankhamun's was a staircase going down, then turning to the right, which identifies it, I think, as the tomb of a queen because the king's tomb normally turns to the left, and the queen's tomb turns to the right. That's the first indication that we're dealing here with the burial of a queen. The second indication is that this corridor has been enlarged. And we know why that enlargement took place in the case of Tutankhamun - because they needed to introduce through it the huge panels of the gilded shrines which surrounded his sarcophagus and coffin. So that's the second thing. It's a queen who had obvious pharaonic prerogatives, in that she seems to have been buried within a nest of gilded shrines, similar to those of Tutankhamun.

MONTAGNE: What is the next step to get further information?

REEVES: The way we can move forward of this is very simple. A radar survey of those two walls would reveal whether behind them there is a void. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but if I'm right, we're now faced with the extraordinary prospect of coming face-to-face with an intact Egyptian pharaonic tomb - and not the tomb of any old king that nobody's ever heard of, but the tomb of Nefertiti, a woman actually who was far more than a pretty face.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us.

REEVES: It's my pleasure.

MONTAGNE: That's Nicholas Reeves, a residential scholar at the school of anthropology at the University of Arizona. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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