LUXOR, Egypt — Chances are high that the tomb of Ancient Egypt’s boy-king Tutankhamen has passages to a hidden chamber, which may be the last resting place of the lost Queen Nefertiti, experts said Saturday.
There is huge international interest in Nefertiti, who died in the 14th century B.C. and is thought to be Tutankhamen’s stepmother. Confirmation of her final resting place would be the most remarkable Egyptian archaeological find of the 21st century.
New evidence from radar imaging is being sent to a team in Japan for analysis. The results are expected to be announced in a month.
“We said earlier there was a 60 percent chance there is something behind the walls. But now, after the initial reading of the scans, we are saying now its 90 percent likely there is something behind the walls,” Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said at a news conference.
He said archaeologists are expected to reach the other side of the tomb’s wall within three months.
Discovery of Nefertiti, whose chiseled cheekbones and regal beauty were immortalized in a 3,300-year-old bust now in a Berlin museum, would shed light on what remains a mysterious period of Egyptian history.
It could also be a boon for Egypt’s ailing tourism industry, which has suffered near endless setbacks since the 2011 uprising that toppled then-President Hosni Mubarak.
British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves, who is leading the investigation, said last month that he believed Tutankhamen’s mausoleum was originally occupied by Nefertiti and that she had lain undisturbed behind what Reeves said that he believes is a partition wall.
But on Saturday, Reeves warned that even the most minor of incisions in the wall could damage an inner chamber that may have been hermetically sealed for many years.
“The key is to excavate slowly and carefully and record well,” Reeves said. “The fact is this isn’t a race. All archaeology is disruption. We can’t go back and redo it, so we have to do it well in the first place.”
“I’m feeling more certain today than I expected to be,” he said outside the Howard Carter House, a site named after the British archaeologist propelled to international celebrity for his discovery of the Tutankhamen tomb in 1922.
King Tut, as he is known, died around 1323 B.C. His intact tomb, complete with his famous golden burial mask, was discovered in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
Experts have long sought to understand why Tut’s tomb was smaller than that of other pharaohs and why its shape was more similar to that of an Egyptian queen’s of the time.
Egyptologists remain uncertain over where Nefertiti died and was buried. She was long believed to have passed away during her husband’s reign, suggesting that she could be buried in Amarna, Egypt, where her bust was found in 1912, about 250 miles north of Luxor.
More recently, most experts, including Reeves, have come to believe that she outlived Akhenaten, who may have been Tut’s father, but changed her name and may have briefly ruled Egypt.