But one thing is for sure: they won't be drilling any holes anytime soon.
The International Tutankhamun Conference at the Grand Egyptian Museum near Giza has wrapped-up, with international experts invited to discuss Nicholas Reeves' controversial theory that Tutankhamun's tomb is actually a tomb within a tomb, with Queen Nefertiti lying beyond a false wall.
At times it must have felt like "Nick vs. The World", with some robust scholarly debate and much of the evidence that Nick has put forward to support his proposition being picked apart.
Dr. Reeves' proposal was that the famous Queen Nefertiti outlived her revolutionary husband (and Tutankhamun's father) Akhenaten, and became pharaoh under the name Smenkhkare. When she died she was given a full royal burial in KV62 in the Valley of the Kings.
Tutankhamun's early death caught his officials by surprise and without a tomb of his own, Nefertiti's was reopened and pressed into service for a second pharaoh. In a nutshell, Tutankhamun’s tomb wasn’t made for the king, but was in fact simply the outer elements of a larger tomb that was originally intended for Nefertiti.
It has been quite the rollercoaster since Dr. Reeves announced his theory last year. After three rounds of tomb scans (one thermal and two ground-penetrating radar) the results are inconclusive and contradictory.
Early infrared thermal imaging and the first scans strongly suggested a large void behind the north and west walls of the burial chamber. The radar expert even went so far as to say he could detect organic and metal objects behind the walls! The last scans made in March were much more vague and proved cause for caution.
Independent radar experts have been sceptical about what even the positive scans have shown. The Valley of the Kings is riddled with fissures and natural voids that could explain the radar data.
Next, the mask. Dr. Reeves believes that Tutankhamun's famous gold mask was actually made for another pharaoh—and a female one at that. However Christian Eckmann, the German expert brought in to repair the mask's damaged beard, refutes it. He has probably examined the mask more closely than any other person and can't see any evidence of reuse.
So what's next? More scans —inside and outside of the tomb. The previous scans will be repeated, as well as external scans looking down from the hill above the tomb. Other tombs will possibly be scanned as well as a control.
The next conference is due around this time next year. In the meantime, one thing is for sure. As Minister of Antiques, Dr. Khaled El-Anani , announced, they won't be doing any drilling until they are SURE there is a cavity.
Dr. Reeves may feel a little battered tonight. But the investigation into the tomb is still progressing, and in a more open, collaborative way, which can only be a good thing. And besides, and Nicholas Reeves himself says, "If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. But if I'm right, the prospects are frankly staggering."
Thank you to Nigel Fletcher-Jones of the American University in Cairo Press for providing notes from today's conference.
The latest issue of Nile Magazine contains the full story-so-far leading to the latest flurry of activity in Tutankhamun's tomb, along with the amazing photography that you've come to expect from Nile. The current issue of Nile Magazine is on sale at WHSmith stores across the U.K. Click here to find the WHSmith nearest you: www.nilemagazine.com.au/whsmith-nile.
Photo: Mark Fischer.