As tourists dwindle, Egypt looks for treasure
Cairo - Facing a steep drop in tourist numbers, Egypt is hoping to invest in the future with a big discovery from the past – the final resting place of Queen Nefertiti.
Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves has stirred fierce debate with his theory that behind walls in the tomb of famed boy king Tutankhamun are passages that lead to two hidden chambers, one of them a second tomb.
The Egyptian government has promised swift action to survey the site, a process that could begin within three months, if not sooner – while Reeves has continued to expound on his vision.
“What is hidden beyond will not be the burial of an ordinary queen,” says Reeves, a British archaeologist.
“It will be that of a super queen who enjoyed obvious pharaonic privileges, and the only one who at this time seems to fit that description was Nefertiti.”
Reeves’s theory – based on high-resolution scans of the walls of the tomb – has been enthusiastically received by the Egyptian Minister for Antiquities, Mamdouh el-Damaty.
“If it is true, we are facing a discovery that would overshadow the discovery of Tutankhamun himself,” Damaty says.
“I am about 67 percent sure that we will find a new tomb behind the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun.
“When we rediscover the tomb again, now with another tomb, this will be the most important discovery of this century.”
Damaty emphasises that the tomb could be that of several queens, including Nefertiti’s.
Yet the possibility of finding a bounty akin to the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 is a tantalising prospect not just for archaeologists, but for Egypt’s flagging tourism industry.
The news could also be a boon for nationalist sentiment, following years of political turmoil.
“People want some good news, and this could be really great news,” agreed Reeves.
He and a team funded by the Japanese television channel Tokyo Broadcasting System will use radar and thermal imaging technology that, Damaty says, could be obtained and be operational on site in one to three months.
However, Reeves’s theory has been met with scepticism by some in the archaeological community, particularly as it has not yet been subject to peer review.
“Talk of the doorways would have been fine,” according to Aidan Dodson, an Egyptologist at the University of Bristol, but to add Nefertiti is “speculative”, he says.
“I think it’s quite clear that the part that included Nefertiti was to get more publicity and to get a groundswell to start investigations sooner rather than later.”
For the moment, the whereabouts of the grave of Queen Nefertiti remains an enigma.
Reeves says that “until I’m shaking hands with the lady, I’m not going to take anything for granted”.The Independent