The evidence is just preliminary, but still astonishing. Egyptologists may have just discovered a secret chamber in the tomb of King Tutankhamun, which, if confirmed, would prove true half of one man's daring theory. The other half: that the secret chamber belongs to Queen Nefertiti.
But archaeologists are far from making that announcement, and the finding in Tutankhamun's grave is cautious but exciting.
Discovery News reported that an infared thermography (which measures the distribution of temperature on a surface, National Geographic added) scan has hinted that beyond one wall in Tutankhamun's tomb is a space with a different temperature reading.
The scan lasted about 24 hours, and Egypt's Antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty said a more extensive and lengthy examination is needed to confirm anything. He indicated that another thermography technique and additional methods would be used to seek out the secret chamber.There are a couple theories about what lies beyond the wall in Tutankhamun's resting place. The scan may have found an infrared shadow, an indicator of an open area, behind it. And even if that proves true, there may be nothing there.
And given that Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist at the University of Arizona, thinks Nefertiti is hiding there in the secret chamber -- right under archaeologists' noses -- "nothing" would be a quite disappointing find indeed.
"My strong feeling is that Nefertiti may well be buried somewhere in the Valley of the Kings. It would be wonderful to find Nefertiti's tomb, because not only is this a person of the greatest historical importance, but it's a period of the most superb art."
Reeves developed this theory about a secret chamber in Tutankhamun's tomb after studying laser scans of the space. In those images, he spied clear, straight lines underneath a coating of paint and plaster — two hidden doorways, as the Inquisitr previously reported.
Other clues emerged that pointed to a secret chamber in Tutankhamun's crypt: The ceiling appears to extend past the room on the northern and western walls, and the line on the ceiling matches the section of the wall that seems to have been covered with plaster. Even more interesting: The wall in question is made of soft plaster, whereas the spot Nicholas suspects hides a doorway is comprised of gritty material. This material actually matches some found covering a different blocked door in 1922, opened by archaeologists Howard Carter in 1922.
In addition, Reeves thinks that 80 percent of Tutankhamun's treasures were made for someone else, and most likely a woman. And he thinks that woman was Nefertiti, who ruled as pharaoh under the name Neferneferuaten.
A painting behind Tutankhamun's sarcophagus could also provide a clue. Long believed to show Tut's successor Ay performing a ritual on the young ruler, Nicholas believes that the portrayal shares features with images of the legendary queen. The tomb's size and layout is also suspicious; it has only four rooms, which is small compared to the resting places of other pharaohs, suggesting it's much bigger. Hence -- a secret chamber.
Tutankhamun possibly stole Nefertiti's tomb and treasures because he died before his own tomb was ready. After ruling for nine years, he died suddenly at 19 in 1324 B.C. So, 10 years after Nefertiti final days, her tomb was (hypothetically) opened up, her remains and grave goods moved out, and Tutankhamun and his sarcophagus moved in.
But Nicholas' fascinating theory is being challenged by a team of researchers, who contend that she has already been found and thus couldn't possibly be hiding in Tutankhamun's secret chamber. This team says a mummy found in 1898 called the Younger Lady could be the missing queen.
Genetic analysis confirmed this "Younger Lady" is, in fact, Tutankhamun's mom, and inscriptions indicate that's who she was. But according to the Huffington Post, not every Egyptologist is convinced.
Never fear, however -- a mummy may still be lying in Tutankhamun's secret chamber, and it could be another mysterious figure: pharaoh Smenkhkare, or Tut's full or half-sister queen Meritaton.
The investigation into Tutankhamun's secret chamber will continue -- supported by the National Geographic Society -- and is being filmed for a documentary set to air in 2016.
[Image via Rachelle Burnside / Shutterstock]