Mummy Mystery: Multiple Tombs Hidden in Valley of Kings

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Multiple tombs lay hidden in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, where royalty were buried more than 3,000 years ago, awaiting discovery, say researchers working on the most extensive exploration of the area in nearly a century.

The hidden treasure may include several small tombs, with the possibility of a big-time tomb holding a royal individual, the archaeologists say.

Egyptian archaeologists excavated the valley, where royalty were buried during the New Kingdom (1550–1070 B.C.), between 2007 and 2010 and worked with the Glen Dash Foundation for Archaeological Research to conduct ground- penetrating radar studies. (See Photos of Egypt's Valley of the Kings)

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The team has already made a number of discoveries in the valley, including a flood control system that the ancient Egyptians created but, mysteriously, failed to maintain. The system was falling apart by the time of King Tutankhamun, which damaged many tombs but appears to have helped protect the famous boy-king's treasures from robbers by sealing his tomb.

The team collected a huge amount of data that will take a long time to analyze properly, wrote Afifi Ghonim, who was the field director of the project, in an email to LiveScience. "The corpus was so extensive it will take years, maybe decades, to fully study and report on," wrote Ghonim, an archaeologist with the Ministry of State for Antiquities in Egypt who is now chief inspector of Giza.

The project is part of "the most extensive exploration in the Valley of the Kings since Howard Carter's time," he said, referring to the Egyptologist whose team discovered King Tut's tomb in 1922.

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The search for undiscovered tombs

"The consensus is that there are probably several smaller tombs like the recently found KV 63 and 64 yet to be found. But there is still the possibility of finding a royal tomb," wrote Ghonim in the email. "The queens of the late Eighteenth Dynasty are missing, as are some pharaohs of the New Kingdom, such as Ramesses VIII."

That sentiment was echoed by the famous, and at times controversial, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass at a lecture in Toronto this past summer. Hawass was the leader of the Valley of the Kings team.

"The tomb of Thutmose II, not found yet, the tomb of Ramesses VIII is not found yet, all the queens of dynasty 18 [1550-1292 B.C.] were buried in the valley and their tombs not found yet," said Hawass, former minister for antiquities, during the lecture. "This could be another era for archaeology," he added in an interview.

Ghonim said that it is hard to say how many tombs remain undiscovered but it is "more than just a couple."

Locating tombs in the Valley of the Kings is difficult to do even with ground-penetrating radar, a non-destructive technique in which scientists bounce high-frequency radio waves off the ground and measure the reflected signals to find buried structures. (10 Modern Tools for Indiana Jones)

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