The search for a secret chamber in the tomb of King Tutankhamun will resume later this year when a team of Italian researchers begin the most in-depth investigation ever of the boy king’s burial site.
A team from the Polytechnic University of Turin will scan the tomb and its surroundings with advanced radar technology.
“It will be a rigorous scientific work and will last several days, if not weeks,” Franco Porcelli, the project’s director and a professor of physics at the department of applied science and technology of the Polytechnic University in Turin, told Seeker. “Three radar systems will be used and frequencies from 200 Mhz to 2 GHz will be covered.”
The investigation of King Tut’s tomb is part of a wider long-term project to conduct a complete geophysical mapping of the Valley of the Kings, the main burial site of Egypt’s pharaohs, which is also being led by the group from the Polytechnic University of Turin.
Ground-penetrating radar, together with instruments based on electric resistance tomography and magnetic induction, will scan depths of up to 32 feet to provide information on existing underground structures.
“Who knows what we might find as we scan the ground,” Porcelli remarked.
The researchers plan to carry out the first preliminary survey of King Tut’s tomb by the end of this month.
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Porcelli’s probe into the 3,300-year-old burial will be the third carried out in the past two years.
The search began in 2015 following a claim by Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist at the University of Arizona. Reeves believes there is a hidden chamber in King Tut’s tomb that contain the remains, and possibly the intact grave goods, of Queen Nefertiti, wife of the “heretic” monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaten, Tutankhamun’s father.
Reeves speculated that the tomb of King Tut was not ready when the pharaoh died unexpectedly at age 19 in 1323 B.C. Consequently, he was buried in a rush in what was originally the tomb of Nefertiti, who had died 10 years earlier.
Radar scans carried out in 2015 by Japanese radar specialist Hirokatsu Watanabu were greeted with enthusiasm by Mamdouh Eldamaty, Egypt’s former minister of antiquity.
He revealed that analysis of Watanabu’ scans pointed to a “90 percent chance” that King Tut’s tomb concealed two chambers, on the north and eastern walls.
The announcement sent shock waves through the world of archaeology.
“This could be the discovery of the century,” Eldamaty said.
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But a follow-up radar scan carried out by the National Geographical Society (NGS) cooled down expectations as it failed to replicate Watanabu’s compelling results.
The theory that King Tut’s tomb contains secret chambers was greeted with great skepticism last year at an international conference in Cairo dedicated to the boy king.
“The project wasn’t done scientifically at all,” former Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass said at the conference.
Growing doubts about Reeves’ tomb theory prompted the current Egyptian antiquities minister Khaled El-Enany to reassure that no invasive exploration inside the tomb would be done.
And he admitted that no conclusive result has emerged so far.
“It is essential to perform more scans using other devices and more technical and scientific methods,” El-Enany said.
Porcelli explained to Seeker that his probe will tell once and for all if King Tut’s tomb hides a secret burial chamber.
“This will be the final investigation,” Porcelli said. “We will provide an answer which is 99 percent definitive.”