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NEWS: Tutankhamun unmasked?


Did the iconic funerary gold mask of King Tutankhamun belong to his stepmother Queen Nefertiti as Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves wrote in a scholarly work on the mystery? (Source: Ahram Online).

“Before being published in a scientific journal in December, British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves, from Arizona University, sent Al-Ahram Weekly an advance copy of his article on the original name inscribed on Tutankhamun’s mask.
Entitled “The Gold Mask of Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten” Reeves relates that an essay was behind his first doubts about King Tutankhamun’s possession of his iconic gold mask, now under restoration at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square.

In the paper Reeves wrote several years ago, in an essay which is yet to appear, he sought to demonstrate that the famous gold mask from King Tutankhamun’s tomb (KV 62) had been created not for the boy king but for the use of a female predecessor named Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten (Queen Nefertiti) who was King Akhenaten’s co-regent.

“The evidence in favour of this conclusion was, and still is compelling,” Reeves said, adding that he was able to muster for it no inscriptional support. Detailed scrutiny, both of the mask itself and of photographs, furnished not the slightest hint that the multi-columned hieroglyphic inscription with cartouche might pre-date Tutankhamun’s reign.

“Happily, this reluctant presumption of the mask’s textual integrity may now be abandoned,” Reeves pointed out in the paper, asserting that “a fresh examination of the re-positioned and newly re-lit mask in Cairo at the end of September 2015 yielded for the first time, beneath the hieroglyphs of Tutankhamun’s prenomen, lightly chased traces of an earlier, erased royal name.”

With the kind cooperation of former director of the Egyptian Museum Mahmoud Al-Halwagi and the museum’s photographer Ahmed Amin, it proved possible to secure an exceptionally clear image of this palimpsest.

Drawing by Gabolde illustrating:(upper) the present, Tutankhamun-era inscription(green)with visible portions of the earlier,underlying text (red); (Lower)the original name(yellow) as reconstructed on the basis of these still-visible traces (red) (Source: Ahram Online).

Given its significance, Reeves was keen to share this discovery with specialist colleagues, from whom he also sought input. “For, although the opening signs of the underlying text were obvious enough, those traces close to the cartouche’s ‘tie’ were proving difficult to disentangle,” Reeves wrote. He added that his request for aid evoked responses from both Ray Johnson and Marc Gabolde. “I am extremely grateful for their contributions to this note,” he said, confirming that “not only has our collaboration resulted in a reasonably definitive reconstruction of the name-form originally borne by the mask, but this name indeed confirms the conclusion I had reached previously on non-inscriptional grounds — namely, that Tutankhamun’s headpiece had been prepared originally for the co-regent Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten.”

The changes to which the mask’s cartouche had been subjected are presented in a drawing by Gabolde. “Above, in green, we see the present, Tutankhamun-era inscription, with visible portions of the earlier, underlying text highlighted in red; below, in yellow, is the agreed reconstruction of this original name.””- via Ahram Online.

Read more here.

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NEWS: Radar scans in King Tut’s tomb suggest hidden chambers


Hirokatsu Watanabe, a radar specialist from Japan, pushes his specially modified Koden-brand machine along the north wall of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber (Source: National Geographic).

“After two days of radar scans in the tomb of Tutankhamun, archaeologists have concluded that preliminary examination of the data provides evidence that unopened sections lie behind two hidden doorways in the pharaoh’s underground burial chamber.

The results, announced Saturday morning at a news conference in Luxor, bolster the theory of Nicholas Reeves, a British archaeologist who believes that the tomb contains another royal burial. The hidden tomb, he has speculated, belongs to Nefertiti, King Tut’s mother-in-law, who may have ruled as a female pharaoh during Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. If so, this would be only the second intact royal burial site to be discovered in modern times—and it would, in the words of Mamdouh Eldamaty, the Egyptian antiquities minister, represent “one of the most important finds of the century.” At the press conference, he said he was “90 percent positive” that another chamber lies behind the north wall of the tomb.
On Friday, Eldamaty stood next to that wall, which is painted with a scene depicting the burial rituals of the boy pharaoh, who ruled in the 14th century B.C. “The radar scan tells us that on this side of the north wall, we have two different materials,” he said. “We believe that there could be another chamber.”

The scans—conducted by Hirokatsu Watanabe, a Japanese radar specialist— also provide evidence of a second hidden doorway in the adjoining west wall.

Together these features lend credence to Reeves’s theory, which he made public in July. Since then examinations of the physical features of the burial chamber have added support. But until the tests began on Thursday, the evidence ran no deeper than the surface of the walls. Radar scans had never previously been conducted in the tomb, and they represent a crucial step in the investigation. For the first time, specialists have collected data about both the material structure of the walls and the open spaces behind them. It’s these spaces that are most intriguing—they could contain artifacts and possibly even burial goods that rival those found with Tutankhamun.

“Everything is adding up,” Reeves, a National Geographic grantee, told me on Thursday evening, immediately after a suspenseful examination with the radar. We were standing next to the north wall, whose painted scene has been visible since 1922, when Howard Carter rediscovered the tomb. But after observing the scans, I found that the wall looked different to me—I couldn’t help but imagine what may lie beyond. “The tomb is not giving up its secrets easily,” Reeves continued. “But it is giving them up, bit by bit. It’s another result. And nothing is contradicting the basic direction of the theory.”

The first scans in the tomb happened to be scheduled for Thanksgiving, and they began at dusk, after the tourists had left and the Valley of the Kings had fallen silent. Watanabe had last worked in the Valley 15 years ago on another Reeves project. Those scans revealed a number of features that appeared to be underground chambers, one of which turned out to be a tomb. (The others have yet to be investigated further.) Watanabe has also used radar to identify previously hidden ancient monuments in South America. Both of these projects involved radar machines that pointed downward. Such equipment is generally used by engineers; the radar can locate rebar in bridge decks, for example, or find structural weaknesses.

In 2009, a Madrid-based team of conservators and artists called Factum Arte began conducting high-resolution laser scans of the tomb.
After [an] aborted scan, Watanabe tinkered with the radar machine […]. The room hushed, and he began to push the cart along the wall once more. After moving a little more than half of the distance, he broke the silence: “They changed the material here.”

This was exactly the point at which there seemed to be a doorway on the Factum Arte scans. Watanabe is not an Egyptologist, and he had not studied Reeves’s ideas closely, but what he observed on the radar matched up. He did one more scan of the west wall, and then he proceeded to the north. “It’s just a solid wall,” he called out, at the beginning. He reached the section of the wall that Reeves had proposed was a blocked-over partition. “There is a change from here,” Watanabe announced.

After he was finished, he studied the multicolored bars that ran across the computer screen. “Obviously it’s an entrance to something,” he said through a translator. “It’s very obvious that this is something. It’s very deep.”

The next day, Eldamaty and Reeves confirmed that the initial analysis of the data was extremely encouraging. It showed at least two materials: bedrock and something else. “The transition from solid bedrock to non-solid bedrock, to artificial material, it seems, was immediate,” Reeves said, speaking of the north wall. “The transition was not gradual. There was a strict, straight, vertical line, which corresponds perfectly with the line in the ceiling. It seems to suggest that the antechamber continues through the burial chamber as a corridor.” He continued: “The radar people tell me that we can also recognize that behind this partition there is a void.” Eldamaty has said that Watanabe will spend another month analyzing the data, and then he will give final, detailed results” – via National Geographic.

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NEWS: ‘Well-preserved’ sarcophagus of 22nd dynasty nobleman unearthed in Egypt’s Luxor


An anthropoid sarcophagus of a 22nd dynasty nobleman was discovered in El-Assassif necropolis on Luxor’s West Bank (Source: Ahram Online).

“During [Thursday’s] inspection tour in Luxor’s West Bank around the tomb of the 22nd dynasty’s Amenhotep-Hwi (TT28), Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty announced the discovery of the sarcophagus of a 22nd dynasty nobleman named Ankh-If-Khonsu.
Eldamaty explained that the sarcophagus was found to be well preserved and in excellent condition after being unearthed from a niche carved in the tomb’s rock. The find was made early this week by a Spanish mission from the Institute of Ancient Egyptian studies in collaboration with an Egyptian mission from the ministry of antiquities. 

(Source: Ahram Online).

 Head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities department Mahmoud Afifi said that the sarcophagus is in the very distinct style of the 22nd dynasty and it is carved from wood that is covered in a layer of plaster.

The sarcophagus depicts the facial features of the deceased wearing a wig and a crown made of flowers. His chest is decorated with a necklace and he is holding papyri flowers. Afifi added that the sarcophagus is decorated with hieroglyphic texts and scenes depicting the deceased in different positions before deities Osiris, Nefertem, Anubis, and Hathor.

Sultan Eid, head of the central administration of Upper Egypt, told Ahram Online that the sarcophagus contains a mummy, but it has not been yet studied” – via Ahram Online.


NEWS: Parts of King Nectanebo I’s shrine uncovered in Cairo

Basalt blocks of King Nectanebo I’s shrine were unearthed today in Matariya area in Ain Shams, Cairo (Source: Ahram Online).

“Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the mission also uncovered small limestone blocks of a number of columns and the ceiling of the temple of 30th Dynasty King Nectanebo I. The ceiling is decorated with stars.

Parts of Kings Meneptah and Nectanebo I statues were also found along with a collection of mud bricks used in the fence that once surrounded Oun.
Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egypt Department at the antiquities ministry, explained that the sizes of the newly discovered blocks of the shrine range between 75cm and 1.25 cm, carved in Basalt and engraved with the different names of Egypt’s regions at that time.
Other blocks are decorated with scenes depicting the god Hapi holding offerings. Further excavation is now in full swing in an attempt to unearth more of the shrine’s blocks, in order to restore it to its original form.
Oun is one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, the capital of the 13th Lower Egyptian nome. Today, it is mostly destroyed, its temples and other buildings used for the construction of medieval Cairo” – via Ahram Online.

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NEWS: Tutankhamun’s treasures may have originally belonged to his stepmother


The iconic bust of Nefertiti (Source: Ahram Online).

“Reeves announces in a press conference held today that Tutankhamun’s gold funerary mask originally belonged to Queen Nefertiti.
During the press conference held Thursday at the State Information Authority in Heliopolis, archaeologist Nicholas Reeves announced that the gold funerary mask belonging to the boy king was originally made for his stepmother Nefertiti.

Reeves, who believes that Nefertiti’s final resting place hides behind Tutankhamun’s burial chamber, cited this as a piece of evidence proving his theory.

Reeves explained to Ahram Online that the gold mask was remounted years ago at the museum, allowing him to examine the back. He then realised that the face was made independently of the opposite side.
“I thought that it was very strange and may just be a technical feature.” However, he also noticed that the type of gold used for the face is different than that used on the back of the mask as well as the inlays. The eyes are in lapis while other blue portions of the mask are made from glass.
“It is very unusual,” Reeves said, adding that he then started to look at other features of the mask. 
When the mask was uncovered, Reeves said, the earholes and the ears themselves “were covered with little disks of gold foil which I did not understand at first.”
With more studies, Reeves learned that ancient Egyptian kings never wore earrings. “There is no image of any ancient Egyptian king wearing earrings,” he asserted, adding that Tutankhamun did not have pierced ears but a depression that shows he wore earrings only as a child.
“But the funerary mask has holes to hang earrings,” he pointed out.
“Looking at the mask again I can see that the inscription on the cartouch has been changed, meaning that all these treasures found in Tutankhamun’s tomb were originally made for Nefertiti as a co-regent to her husband king Akhenaten, and not for Tutankhamun as previously thought.
“I believe that Nefertiti never used these treasured items since she obviously had a better collection because, according to other evidence, she became a king,” Reeves pointed out.
He continued, saying that 80 per cent of Tutankhamun’s collection was made for Nefertiti, especially the canopic jars.
For now, we have to wait until the end of November to confirm the existence of a hidden chamber. At that time, radar and thermal imaging will be used to scan the tomb, differentiating between bedrock and artificial walls. 
“Even if he finds a hidden passageway, that doesn’t mean that digging will begin immediately,” Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty said.
Eldamaty said that before starting any work to reveal such a tomb, we must find a way to protect the tomb of Tutankhamun.
“Does that mean we will dig from above, below or from the side? We don’t know yet,” he explained.
Despite the note of caution in his voice, Eldamaty appears to be as excited as Reeves at the prospect of solving this ancient mystery.
“When we find Nefertiti, I think it will be more important than the discovery of King Tutankhamun himself,” Eldamaty told Ahram Online.
He added that he hopes the hidden chamber belongs to Nefertiti, but he doubts it does. Eldamaty added that King Tutankhamun had many women in his life, and if a new tomb is discovered, it could easily belong to one of them. 
“It could belong to one of his sisters, or his mother Kiya, or Merit-Atun, the wife of King Smenkare, whose mummy was unearthed in tomb number KV55, located in front of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Let us wait for the end results,” Eldamaty told Ahram Online” – via Ahram Online.

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NEWS: Anticipation grows at possibility of Tutankhamun tomb’s hidden chambers


Examinations completed on Monday indicate the theory of British archeologist Nicholas Reeves may well be right (Source: Ahram Online).

“Antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty announced on Monday that the first examinations carried out by himself and British archeologist Nicholas Reeves in Luxor on Tutankhamun’s tomb have revealed that the tomb’s northern and western walls both hide chambers.
There are scratching and markings on both walls like those found on the entrance gate of Tutankhamun’s tomb when it was discovered in 1922, Eldamaty explained.
“This indicates that the western and northern walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb could hide two burial chambers,” Eldamaty told Ahram Online.
Nicholas Reeves said their investigations showed the tomb’s ceiling extends behind the northern and western walls. He is now almost convinced his theory suggesting the existence of two undiscovered chambers is correct.
“After our first examination of the walls we can do nothing more until we receive the all-clear from the radar device to confirm the our findings,” Reeves told Ahram Online.
Eldamaty has promised that on 4 November, the same day Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered, the radar results of scans on the two walls will be announced.
Reeves believes the northern wall painting in Tutankhamun’s tomb depicts the boy king completing a death ritual for queen Nefertiti. Mainstream scholarship says the painting shows king Ay doing the ritual for Tutankhamun. Now studies of wall paintings in the tombs of Ay and Tutankhamun will test Reeves’ theory.
In August Reeves published a paper suggesting the western and northern painted walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb have secret passageways leading to two chambers, one of them containing the remains of Nefertiti — queen of Egypt and the chief consort and wife of the monotheistic King Akhenaten, Tutankhamun’s father.
At the footsteps of Tutankhamun’s tomb Reeves enthusiastically told Ahram Online that although they must wait for the radar results, they were able to look for other features not present in the digital photos he had been using.
The photos were taken by art organization Factume in order to reconstruct a replica tomb of Tutankhamun. They found several such features; the extended ceiling, the traces of two doorways and royal stamps.
“I am pretty sure that a very important discovery is to be made soon inside Tutankahmn’s tomb,” Reeves confirmed.
Eldamaty told Ahram Online he now thinks it very likely there are hidden chambers, but disagrees with Reeves when he says they could house the crypt of queen Nefertiti.
Eldamaty believes she will have been buried in Tel Al-Amaran, the ancient capital of Akhenaten’s kingdom.
“I am very enthusiastic about this work and I’m sure something is going to be discovered behind those two controversial walls,” Eldamaty said – via Ahram Online.

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Thursday Photo

  This week’s photograph is courtesy of B.C. Archaeology.


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