Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nefertiti's Burial Chamber?

The Pharaoh Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti are best known for imposing one of the earliest versions of monotheism upon the ancient Egyptians. During their reign, they replaced the original polytheistic Egyptian religion with the cult of Aten, the solar disk, as the sole object of worship. However, within a few years of the death of Akhenaten the Egyptians reverted to their polytheistic beliefs.

A few years after the death of Akhenaten the famous "boy king" Tutankhamun assumed the throne. "King Tut" was actually a relatively minor pharaoh who began his reign as a child and died unexpectedly nine years later. He is famous today because his tomb, unlike the others in the Valley of the Kings, was found undisturbed, yielding a priceless collection of Egyptian artifacts that has toured the world.

Now, according to Dr. Nicholas Reeves of the University of Arizona, Tutankhamun's tomb may hold a further secret - two patched-over doors revealed by high-resolution scans of the walls. Reeves believes that one of those doors may lead to the burial chamber of Nefertiti, whose tomb has never been found.

Reeves proposes that one entrance leads to a storeroom from Tut's era, while the other leads to an older royal burial chamber: that of Queen Nefertiti herself, who was King Tut's stepmother.

The passage leading to Nefertiti's tomb, if it's indeed there, would be in the wall on the other side of King Tut's sarcophagus.

While some believe King Tut's final resting place was a small private tomb that was quickly expanded for use by the boy-king after his premature demise, Reeves argues that just the opposite is true.

It's actually a much bigger burial chamber, he writes, one that had been designed for royalty all along -- one that already contained a member of the royal family.

Reeves also argues that the rightward orientation of the tomb, formally known as KV 62, is more consistent with queenly burial chambers than those of kings of that era.

Of course, we can't be sure without opening the doors and seeing what lies beyond, which can take years for the Egyptian government to approve. Maybe they don't lead anywhere at all. But if another undisturbed burial chamber is found, its discovery could prove as important to Egyptology as was that of Tutankhamun's.

It likely would also shed more light on the reign of Akhenaton and Nefertiti, a period that later dynasties tried to erase from history.

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