King Tut tomb scans reveal hidden rooms, sparking speculation about Nefertiti's remains

Scans of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber show hidden rooms that could contain metal and organic material, Egypt’s antiquities minister said Thursday, intensifying speculation that the chambers may contain the remains of Queen Nefertiti.

However, Mamdouh el-Damaty declined to comment on whether treasure or mummies are inside the chambers during a Cairo press conference. The minister explained that analysis of scans made by a Japanese team showed chambers that would be scanned again at the end of the month to get a better idea of what may lay inside.

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"It means a rediscovery of Tutankhamun ... for Egypt it is a very big discovery; it could be the discovery of the century," el-Damaty said. "It is very important for Egyptian history and for all of the world." El-Damaty said last year he was convinced a  hidden chamber may lie behind King Tut's tomb.

Mystery surrounds the remains of the famous Queen Nefertiti, who was one of the wives of Tutankhamun’s father, the Pharaoh Akhenaten.

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Experts have long discussed the possibility that Nefertiti’s final resting place is next to Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old tomb in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor. Last year, for example, Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves wrote an article in which he claimed that Tutankhamun’s tomb contains two hidden doorways. The “ghosts” of the hitherto unrecognized doorways could lead to an unexplored western storage chamber and Nefertiti’s final resting place behind the chamber’s northern wall, he said.

Reeves argues that Tut, who died suddenly at the age of 19, may have been rushed into an outer chamber of Nefertiti's original tomb. The archaeologist told the Times of London in 2015 that he discovered the bricked-up doorways after examining digital scans of the walls of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, across the Nile River from Luxor.

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Thursday’s announcement sparked plenty of chatter on social media about whether Nefertiti’s remains are in the hidden chambers.

However, el-Damaty said it was too early to tell what the metal and organic material could be, saying only that he thinks the new chambers could contain the tomb of a member of Tutankhamun's family.

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At the news conference, el-Damaty highlighted radar scans that showed anomalies in the walls of the tomb, indicating a possible hidden door and the chambers, which lay behind walls that were covered up and painted over with hieroglyphics.

The discovery of King Tut's nearly-intact tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 sparked a renewed interest in Egyptology and yielded unprecedented Pharaonic treasures, including the boy king's sarcophagus and iconic golden burial mask.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.