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Zahi Hawass: Nefertiti tomb theory 'baseless'

One of Egypt's leading archaeologists has taken sides in a bitter dispute arising from events of more than 3,300 years ago: the fabled location of Queen Nefertiti's tomb.

Zahi Hawass: Nefertiti tomb theory 'baseless'
The bust of Nefertiti at the Egyptian Museum in Berlin 
[Credit Markus Schreiber/AP]
Nefertiti, the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, died in about 1330 BC, and her final resting place has never been confirmed.

Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist now at the University of Arizona, believes that he has found the answer. Last month, he announced that Nefertiti's tomb probably lay behind one wall of the tomb of King Tutankhamun, Akhenaten's son by another wife, who died around 1323 BC.

The tomb of Tutankhamun lay forgotten in Egypt's Valley of the Kings for many centuries, and was only found again in 1922.

But Zahi Hawass, a leading archaeologist and formerly Egypt's minister of antiquities, told the Sunday Telegraph that Reeves's idea was "baseless". "Mr Reeves sold the air to us," Hawass said in Cairo. "I confirm that there is nothing at all behind the wall.

"He succeeded in saying something exciting: the tomb of Nefertiti is inside the tomb of Tutankhamun. But his theory is baseless."

Zahi Hawass: Nefertiti tomb theory 'baseless'
The sarcophagus of Tutankhamun displayed in his burial chamber
 in the Valley of the Kings [Credit: AFP]
Hawass promised that Reeves would not be allowed to test his idea. "I will not allow - neither would any archaeologist - making a hole in Tutankhamun's tomb," he said. "The tomb is very vulnerable; any hole may expose the paintings to complete collapse."

Reeves based his theory on high-resolution images of the interior of -Tutankhamun's tomb. He believes that two secret passageways are faintly visible through cracks and fissures. In a recently published paper, The Burial of Nefertiti?, Reeves sets out his belief that one passage could contain a mundane store room, but another could lead to Nefertiti's tomb.

Mamdouh al-Damaty, the current minister of antiquities, has said that there is a 90 per cent chance that hidden chambers exist behind the walls of Tutankhamun's tomb.

But Hawass insisted that the new theory was not even worth examining. "It's not logical that every archaeologist come up with an idea and you run after him, because theories are not based on evidence," he said. "There is not a one per cent chance Reeves's theory is correct."

Reeves believes that the tomb of Tutankhamun was originally built for Queen Nefertiti and that she lies undisturbed behind what he believes is a partition wall.

Zahi Hawass: Nefertiti tomb theory 'baseless'
The linen-wrapped mummy of Tutankhamun displayed in his climate-controlled 
glass case in his underground tomb in the Valley of the Kings [Credit: AFP]
Hawass, in contrast, believes that the young Pharaoh's tomb was originally built for his brother, Ay. He suggests that because Tutankhamun died suddenly and unexpectedly, he was buried in his brother's tomb.

As for the resting place of Queen Nefertiti, Hawass has another theory; he says that she lies in Amarna, the remains of an ancient capital in the Nile Valley. Hawass also believes that one of two female mummies found in the Valley of the Queens is, in fact, Nefertiti. The two mummies have been moved from tomb 21 to the Egyptian Museum for DNA testing.

The DNA of the unknown mummy will be compared with that of the recently discovered mummy of Queen Mutnodjmet, the sister of Nefertiti.

These tests would reveal the truth, Hawass said, and there was no point in pursuing Reeves's theory and risking damage to Tutankhamun's tomb. "There is nobody in Egypt, whether the minister of archaeology or anyone else, who can take the responsibility for making a scratch in Tutankhamun's tomb," Hawass said.

"So that is why I think that the idea was born dead."

Author: Magdy Samaan | Source: The Telegraph [December 27, 2015]

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