Queen Nefertiti was the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten in Egypt in the 14th Century BC. She is thought to be the mother of King Tutankhamun (also called Tutankhamen). In fact, the genetic evidence (2010) is rather more complex than that, in that the royal line was deeply incestuous and–rather like folks in Norfolk, England or Kentucky, USA–there were three successive generations of marriage between first cousins before Tut was born (and he had the medical history that reflected such a birth).
Part of the enduring mystery of Nefertiti is that her burial tomb has never been found. However, it is also probably true to say that she is chiefly famous due to the beauty of the Nefertiti Bust (above), found on 6 December 1912 at Amarna by the German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt within the sculptor Thutmose‘s workshop. It is less than 0.5m (19″) tall and weighs about 20kg (44 lb), being made of a limestone core covered with painted stucco layers.
Her son Tutankhamun took over the throne of Egypt at the age of 8 on the death of his predecessor (probably Smenkhkare), and was himself dead at just 19. Akhenaten was supposed to be buried at Armana, but Tutankhamun was buried at Luxor, in the Valley of the Kings, as were most of the Kings & Pharoahs of Egypt (Akhenaten was a heretic, and the changes that he made were rapidly reversed after his death).
There are currently 63 tombs and chambers known of in the Valley of the Kings (the latest discovered in 2008). The official name in ancient times was “The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes” (isn’t that splendid?). In short, they called it Ta-sekhet-ma’at (the Great Field).
With tomb-robbers & archeologists searching the Great Field for missing tombs across the last 3,000 years, you may well think that they have all been discovered & opened. You would be wrong. Indeed, the tombs of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Smenkhkare (in power between Akhenaten & Tutankhamun) & (until 4 November 1922) Tutankhamun are all unknown. In addition, that period is one of the richest in terms of the quality of it’s works of art & grave goods.
Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb on 4 November 1922; the clearance & conservation work continued for 10 years. One perfectly astonishing feature is that, in spite of the utter beauty of the artefacts found within the tomb, discoveries which have riveted the attention of the world to the Great Field ever since, Tutankhamun was a most minor king. His tomb was just 4 chambers (the largest tomb discovered–KV5–is 120 chambers, and is still being cleared). The difference was that, whilst tomb-raiders haddiscovered & entered Tut’s tomb–twice–in antiquity, it seemed that most of the treasure remained. Every other tomb in the Great Field had been both discovered & emptied.
The modern interest in Tutankhamun is so high that breath from the large numbers passing through his tomb was causing damage, and a full-sized replica was built close to the original and opened on 30 April 2014. A Spanish company called Factum Arte produced detailed scans of the tomb, from which the Replica was designed. Nicholas Reeves, a British archaeologist at the University of Arizona, was commissioned to assess the scans. Whilst doing so, he spotted what seemed to be marks of now-closed doorways on 2 walls. Eventually, in August 2015 he declared that he believed that Tutankhamun had been buried in the antechamber of Queen Nefertiti. He is saying that, behind this North wall, lies the tomb of Nefertiti:
A Japanese expert has carried out more scans. After initial assessments, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said today (Thursday 17 March 2016) that they had revealed the presence of two empty spaces behind two walls of the burial chamber (with a “90% certainty” of a tomb or chamber). If they exist, and if they contain a fraction of the treasure that Tutankhamun’s tomb contained, then it will be the find of the century.
Here is a sketch of what they believe could be the plan of the entire tomb, based on current discoveries: