The discovery of hidden hieroglyphs in Tutankhamun’s tomb lends additional strength to a theory that the legendary Egyptian queen Nefertiti lies in a hidden chamber adjacent to her stepson’s burial chamber. So says the world-famous British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves.

    Nicholas Reeves, former curator in the British Museum’s Department of Egyptian Antiquities, said that while this theory remains unproven after inconclusive radar scans, it still needs to be looked into. Reeves realized that drawings depicting Tutankhamun while he is buried are painted over other hieroglyphs on which Tutankhamun buries Nefertiti. Nefertiti is the legendary beauty, Queen of Egypt and wife of King Akhenaten.

    “I can now show that those drawings in the tomb originally showed Tutankhamun burying his predecessor, Nefertiti. You wouldn’t have had that decoration in Tutankhamun’s tomb,” Reeves told The Guardian. The decorated north wall depicts successor Ay holding a ceremonial knife and performing the ritual of ‘opening the mouth’ of the mummy, to restore the deceased’s five senses.

    Reeves said, “Close inspection of Ay’s hieroglyphs reveals clear underlying traces of an earlier name, Tutankhamun’s. In the original version, this scene showed Tutankhamun performing the funeral ritual for the original owner of the tomb, his immediate predecessor Nefertiti.”

    Facial features

    “That conclusion is absolutely confirmed by the facial profiles of the drawings. The snub nose and plump double chin currently attributed to Ay closely follow Tutankhamun’s standardized facial contours. The face of the depicted mummy bears the unmistakable features of Nefertiti. Obviously the scene started as an account of Tutankhamun at Nefertiti’s funeral.”

    Discovered exactly a century ago by Howard Carter, Tutankhamun’s tomb was filled with chairs and chariots, as well as dazzling treasures that the young king would need in the afterlife. Reeves argues that his unexpected death – in 1324 BC, after just nine years on the throne – meant that he had to be buried urgently. “The new evidence supports the theory that Tutankhamun’s tomb is just the outer part of a much larger tomb,” Reeves said. According to him, Nefertiti would lie further in the tomb with a large system of private rooms and corridors.

    Egyptian archaeologist restores Tutankhamun’s gold coffin. © EPA

    In 2015, Reeves stated that high-resolution images of Tutankhamun’s tomb showed lines under plastered surfaces of painted walls, indicating undiscovered doorways, although other experts found the scans inconclusive. “It’s very easy to write this off as pure fantasy, but I found that the decoration of the wall in the burial chamber had changed.”


    “We have always been amazed at Tutankhamun’s tomb because of its odd shape. It is very small, and not what we would expect from a king.” Reeves will include the new evidence in his forthcoming book, “The Complete Tutankhamun,” due out October 28. It is an update of a critically acclaimed edition that he first published thirty years ago and has remained in print ever since.

    He argues that recent studies, using thermal imaging and fungal growth analysis, further support his case. He writes: “Tutankhamun is not buried in the extensive, unused tomb of a private individual, but it seems very likely that he was only an intruder in the outer part of a considerably larger, royal tomb.”