Was Tutankhamun's tomb built for a woman? The chamber's layout and 'feminine features' of the king's death mask suggest he inherited the final resting place
- The tomb of Egypt's 'boy king' was first discovered in 1922
- Expert Chris Naunton claims the layout suggests it was built for a woman
- Dr Yasmin El Shazly believes famous death mask has been altered
- Canopic jars and ear lobes of death mask suggest feminine features too
Egypt's 'boy king' has gripped our imagination ever since his tomb filled with golden spoils was discovered in 1922.
But a new theory suggests his famous burial chamber may not have been intended for him.
Instead, two leading experts have suggested King Tut's tomb may have been built for a woman, based upon it's layout - and the iconic gold death mask holds clues too.
These theories add to claims Queen Nefertiti is buried in the tomb, or at least has a significant link to it.
Two leading experts have suggested King Tut's tomb may have been built for a woman, based upon the layout of the chamber. The iconic gold death mask (pictured) could also hold clues. The face was originally separate from the headdress and they were welded together, while pharaohs' masks were usually made in one piece
Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and ruled between 1332 BC and 1323 BC.
He died suddenly at around the age of 18 under mysterious circumstances.
In a video for Smithsonian Magazine, Chris Naunton, director of the Egypt Exploration Society, said: 'One of the first things you notice when you enter this tomb - you come down the descending passageway and you need to take a turn right.
'This is quite unusual for 18th dynasty tombs because in most cases what you would expect of a pharaoh's tomb is a left-hand turn.'
The left was a symbol of masculinity in ancient Egypt and was so important that the entrance to pharaohs' tombs were almost immediately followed by a left-hand turn.
Chris Naunton, director of the Egypt Exploration Society pointed out that a right-hand turn in the tomb is unusual and was associated with females. A replica of the decorated burial room is shown above
Experts recently scanned the walls of King Tut's tomb in a bid to uncover secret chambers that may lie behind tow walls, and contain the mummy of Queen Nerertiti. The diagram issued by Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities also shows King Tut's tomb is accessed from a right-hand turn from the entrance corridor
The only other tomb from the 18th dynasty involving a right-hand turn was built for a female pharaoh, Hatshepsut (shown as a statue)
The only other tomb from the 18th Dynasty involving a right-hand turn was built for a female pharaoh, Hatshepsut.
Dr Naunton continued that based on the tomb's layout, it may have been intended for a woman.
While Dr Yasmin El Shazly, an Egyptologist working at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo said the clues don't end there.
She pointed out the faces on canopic jars - used to store organs removed from the mummy in the tomb - have very feminine faces that look different to King Tut's famous golden death mask.
And the iconic mask may have originally depicted a female pharaoh.
She said the face was originally separate from the headdress and they were welded together, so they were two different pieces, while pharaohs' death masks were usually made in one piece.
She also explained the ears of the mask were originally pierced, which was unusual for a 3D depiction of a man.
'It suggests the face itself did not originally belong to the rest of the headdress, and that the headdress belonged to a woman,' she said.
DISCOVERY OF TUTANKHAMUN: EGYPT'S 'BOY KING'
In 1907, Lord Carnarvon George Herbert asked English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter to supervise excavations in the Valley of the Kings.
On 4 November 1922, Carter's group found steps that led to Tutankhamun's tomb.
He spent several months cataloguing the antechamber before opening the burial chamber and discovering the sarcophagus in February the following year.
He recorded these movements in his journal, and this diary, which recently went on display at the Ashmolean’s ‘Discovering Tutankhamun’ exhibit.
Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and ruled between 1332 BC and 1323 BC. He was the son of Akhenaten and took to the throne at the age of nine or ten.
When he became king, he married his half-sister, Ankhesenpaaten. He died at around the age of 18 and the cause of death is unknown.
Dr Yasmin El Shazlz pointed out the faces on canopic jars – used to store organs removed from the mummy in the tomb – have very feminine faces (one shown) that look different to King Tut's famous golden death mask
British Egyptologist, Dr Nicholas Reeves has previously said King Tut's tomb seems too small for a pharaoh and may have been repurposed for when he died suddenly. It lies in the Valley of the Kings (shown on map)
THE BIZARRE BURIAL RITUALS OF KING TUTANKHAMUN
Researchers from the American University in Cairo believe the king's appendage was embalmed at a 90-degree angle to make the young pharaoh appear as Osiris, the god of the underworld.
The angling of the penis was a feature worn by 'corn-mummies', created in honour of Osiris.
The mummy was also covered in black liquid to resemble Osiris' skin.
Elsewhere, Tutankhamun's heart was missing when the tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.
Religious texts claimed Osiris' heart was similarly removed by his brother Seth.On the outside of the tomb, decorations depicted Tutankhamun as Osiris.
Taken together these clues pose the question of whether the boy king took an important female's tomb and who she may have been.
This is not the first time experts have made this argument.
British Egyptologist, Dr Nicholas Reeves of the University of Arizona, has previously said King Tut's tomb seems too small for a pharaoh and may have been repurposed for when he died suddenly.
DNA analysis of the mummy has revealed King Tut suffered from malaria, while CT scans revealed he likely had a rare bone disorder called Köhler disease that deformed his left leg, forcing him to use walking sticks.
But neither of the diseases were necessarily fatal, Frank Rühli of the University of Zurich said.
There's a chance the boy king may have died when his leg was fractured so badly it pierced the skin, causing massive bleeding, while there are also theories he died young because of hormone imbalances caused by incest, or was murdered.
Tutankhamun's burial chamber is the same size as an antechamber, rather than a tomb fit for an Egyptian King, for example.
It is possible that while the building was constructed, it hadn't been finished, because only the burial chamber was plastered and painted, Scientific American reported.
Other royal tombs of the time were more elaborately decorated and Dr Reeves believes the majority of the golden riches found within four rooms of the tomb were re-purposed from earlier rulers.
Tutankhamun's burial chamber is the same size as an antechamber, rather than a tomb fit for an Egyptian King. The outside of the famous tomb is pictured above
His theory explains that instead of extending a small tomb for Tutankhamun, builders walled off part of a larger tomb for him.
This may lead to the discovery of more mummies in the mysterious structure, including possibly, Nefertiti.
Dr Reeves believes her tomb lies close to that of Tutankhamun’s and may explain why there is a right-hand turn at the entrance shaft.
Researchers believe there is a 90 per cent chance King Tutankhamun's tomb contains at least one, if not two, hidden chambers.
Experts have scanned the tomb to find what some believe could be the resting place of Queen Nefertiti – the legendary wife of Tutankhamun's father whose mummy has never been found.
Dr Reeves said that high-resolution images of the tomb show 'distinct linear traces' on the walls, pointing to two unexplored chambers.
He added that high-resolution images of what is known as King Tut's tomb 'revealed several very interesting features which look not at all natural.
They feature very straight lines that are 90 degrees to the ground, positioned so as to correspond with other features within the tomb.
Dr Reeves believes Nefertiti's tomb lies close to that of Tutankhamun’s and may explain why there s a right-hand turn at the entrance shaft. This diagram shows the proposed location of the secret chambers
Researchers believe there is a 90 per cent chance King Tutankhamun's tomb contains at least one, if not two, hidden chambers. The announcement follows recent infrared thermography tests that revealed one area of the northern wall was a different temperature to others (marked). Pictured here is the interior of the tomb
Dr Reeves has additionally said the plastered walls could conceal two unexplored doorways, one of which perhaps leads to Nefertiti's tomb.
He spotted the ‘ghosts’ of two portals that tomb builders blocked up, one of which is believed to be a storage room.
In particular, he believes these chambers are behind the northern and western walls of tomb and that one contains the remains of Queen Nefertiti, the chief wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten and mother to six of his children, who is Tutankhamun's mother.
Famed for her exquisite beauty, the grave of Nefertiti or the 'Lady of the Two Lands' has been lost for centuries since her sudden death in 1340 BC.
WERE KING TUTANKHAMUN'S PARENTS ALSO COUSINS?
The complex family arrangements of Tutankhamun has been one of the great mysteries surrounding the young king.
While his father was known to have been Pharaoh Akhenaten, the identity of his mother has been far more elusive.
DNA testing has shown that Queen Tiye, whose mummy is pictured above, was the grandmother of the Egyptian Boy King Tutankhamun
In 2010 DNA testing confirmed a mummy found in the tomb of Amenhotep II was Queen Tiye, the chief wife of Amenhotep III, mother of Pharaoh Akhenanten, and Tutankhamun's grandmother.
A third mummy, thought to be one of Pharaoh Akhenaten wives, was found to be a likely candidate as Tutankhamun's mother, but DNA evidence showed it was Akhenaten's sister.
Later analysis in 2013 suggested Nefertiti, Akhenaten's chief wife, was Tutankhamun's mother.
However, the work by Marc Gabolde, a French archaeologist, has suggested Nefertiti was also Akhenaten's cousin.
This incestuous parentage may also help to explain some of the malformations that scientists have discovered afflicted Tutankhamun.
He suffered a deformed foot, a slightly cleft palate and mild curvature of the spine.
However, his claims have been disputed by other Egyptologists, including Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.
His team's research suggests that Tut's mother was, like Akhenaten, the daughter of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye.
Hawass added that there is 'no evidence' in archaeology or philology to indicate that Nefertiti was the daughter of Amenhotep III.
GHOST DOORS TO THE CHAMBER
After analysing high-resolution scans of the walls of Tutankhamun's grave complex in the Valley of the Kings, Dr Nicholas Reeves spotted what appeared to be a secret entrance.
They feature very straight lines that are 90 degrees to the ground, positioned so as to correspond with other features within the tomb.
He uncovered the 'ghosts' of two portals that tomb builders blocked up, one of which is believed to be a storage room.
The other, on the north side of Tutankhamun's tomb, contains 'the undisturbed burial of the tomb's original owner - Nefertiti', Dr Reeves argued.
These features are difficult to capture with the naked eye, he said.
Reeves said the plastered walls could conceal two unexplored doorways, one of which perhaps leads to Nefertiti's tomb.
He also argues the design of the tomb suggests it was built for a queen, rather than a king.
In particular, he believes these chambers are behind the northerns and western walls of tomb and that one contains the remains of queen Nefertiti, the chief wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten and mother to six of his children, who is Tutankhamun's mother.
The ‘ghost’ entrance on the north side of Tutankhamun's tomb, may hide 'the undisturbed burial of the tomb's original owner - Nefertiti', Dr Reeves argued. If he is correct, the hidden tomb could be far more magnificent than anything found in Tutankhamun's burial chamber.
Dr Reeves believes the tomb belonged to Nefertiti and the pharaoh's room was simply an afterthought, describing it as a 'corridor-style tomb-within-a-tomb'.
The opening of what is believed to have been Nefertiti's tomb is decorated with religious scenes, perhaps in a ritual to provide protection to the chamber behind it, he said.
'Only one female royal of the late 18th Dynasty is known to have received such honours, and that is Nefertiti', Dr Reeves wrote.
If his theory is correct, it may resolve a number of oddities about Tutankhamun's burial chamber that have long baffled researchers.
For instance, the treasures found within seem to have been placed there in a rush, and are largely second-hand.
'The implications are extraordinary,' he wrote.
'If digital appearance translates into physical reality, it seems we are now faced not merely with the prospect of a new, Tutankhamun-era store room to the west [but] that of Nefertiti herself, celebrated consort, co-regent, and eventual successor of Pharaoh Akhenaten.'
Nefertiti, whose name means 'the beautiful one has come,' was the queen of Egypt and wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten during the 14th century BC.
She and her husband established the cult of Aten, the sun god, and promoted artwork in Egypt that was strikingly different from its predecessors.
Her titles suggest she was co-regent and possibly a pharaoh after Akhenaten's death.
But despite her remarkable status, her death and burial remains a mystery.
VIRTUAL AUTOPSY REVEALS THE REAL FACE OF KING TUT
Tutankhamun had buck teeth, a club foot and girlish hips, according to the most detailed examination ever of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh’s remains.
And rather than being a boy king with a love of chariot racing, Tut relied on walking sticks to get around during his rule in the 14th century BC, researchers said.
A ‘virtual autopsy’, composed of more than 2,000 computer scans, was carried out in tandem with a genetic analysis of Tutankhamun’s family, which supports evidence that his parents were brother and sister.
The scientists believe that this left him with physical impairments triggered by hormonal imbalances.
And his family history could also have led to his premature death in his late teens.
Various myths suggest he was murdered or was involved in a chariot crash after fractures were found in his skull and other parts of his skeleton.
Tutankhamun (illustrated) was reliant on a walking stick thanks to his club foot, which may have been due to the fact that his parents were brother and sister
Now scientists believe he may have died of an inherited illness because only one of the breaks occurred before he died, while his club foot would have made chariot racing impossible.
Albert Zink, from the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy, deciphered the truth about the ruler’s parents by studying the royal family’s DNA.
He found that Tut was born after his father Akhenaten – dubbed the heretic king – had a relationship with his sister. Incest was not frowned upon by the ancient Egyptians and they did not know about the health implications for any offspring.
Hutan Ashrafian, a lecturer in surgery at Imperial College London, said that several members of the family appeared to have suffered from ailments which can be explained by hormonal imbalances. He said: ‘A lot of his family predecessors lived to a ripe old age. Only his immediate line were dying early, and they were dying earlier each generation.’
Egyptian radiologist Ashraf Selim: ‘The virtual autopsy shows the toes are divergent – in layman’s terms it’s club foot. He would have been heavily limping.
‘There is only one site where we can say a fracture happened before he died and that is the knee.’
Evidence of King Tut’s physical limitations were also backed up by 130 used walking canes found in his tomb.
Another theory is that if a mummy is found, it could belong to Pharaoh Smenkhkare or Queen Meritation, the full or half sister of Tutankhamun, experts said.
It is possible, however, that nothing at all will be found behind the walls of the tomb.
Experts speaking to LiveScience have questioned whether the chambers even exist.
They claim the landscape of the Valley of the Kings - which contains voids - makes it difficult for radar to separate archaeological features from natural ones.
They are calling for more data to be released from the recent scans.
'It does not appear that these GPR [ground-penetrating radar] data have been processed, or that any of the so-called anomalies are visible in the raw data that are provided,' Lawrence Conyers, a professor of anthropology at the University of Denver reported.
A HISTORY OF QUEEN NEFERTITI AND WHY HER TOMB HASN'T BEEN FOUND
By Harry Mount
She was the most beautiful queen ancient Egypt ever laid eyes on. She was the stepmother, and perhaps even the mother, of Tutankhamun, the boy-pharaoh of Egypt.
Still, today, the 3,300-year-old sculpture of her face, in the Neues Museum in Berlin, has the power to bewitch, with her almond eyes, high cheekbones and chiselled jaw.
Even her name, Nefertiti, is enchanting. Her full name, Neferneferuaten Nefertiti, means 'Beautiful are the Beauties of Aten, the Beautiful One has come'. Her power and charms in 14th-century BC Egypt were so great that she collected a hatful of nicknames, too – from Lady Of All Women, to Great Of Praises, to Sweet Of Love.
Neferneferuaten Nefertiti - or Queen Nefertiti - was the wife and 'chief consort' of King Akhenaten, an Eyptian Pharoah during 14th century BC, one of the wealthiest era in Ancient Egypt (bust pictured)
Despite her epic beauty, she remained a model of fidelity to her husband, the Pharaoh Akhenaten.
The same could not be said of Akhenaten, who had his wicked way with a series of royal escorts, including, some say, his own daughters.
Nefertiti was Egypt's most influential, and most beautiful, queen, who ruled at the height of the country's power, in the years of the late 18th Dynasty.
Yes, Cleopatra is more famous, but she ruled Egypt in its declining years, in the first century BC. After her death, Egypt became just another province of the Roman Empire.
Nefertiti lived during the richest period in ancient Egypt's history – from around 1370BC to 1330BC, a time when Greece, let alone Rome, was centuries away from the peaks of its magnificent civilisation. As well as marrying a pharaoh, she was probably born the daughter of another pharaoh, as well as possibly ruling alongside Tutankhamun.
There is even a suggestion that she ruled Egypt alone after her husband's death. So from cradle to grave she ruled the roost. Thus her other nicknames: Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt, and Lady of The Two Lands.
Nefertiti and Akhenaten had six daughters, although it is thought that Tutankhamun was not her son.
DNA analysis has indicated that Akhenaten fathered Tutankhamun with one of his own sisters – the first indication of his penchant for regal incest.
He is thought to have fathered another pharaoh with yet another wife, who is named in various inscriptions. The list of consorts didn't end there. Among his other conquests are two noblewomen.
On top of that, it is even suggested that he slept with one of his six daughters. The jury is out on that one, although he probably did install one of them in the ceremonial – if not necessarily sexual – role of Great Royal Wife.
Despite all her husband's rumoured lovers, Nefertiti's name lives on as his loveliest, and most important, wife. Again and again, her beauty and power were depicted in temple images. Sometimes – like Prince Philip with the Queen – she is shown walking behind her husband. But she's also often shown on her own, in positions of pharaoh-like power.
In one limestone sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, she is seen hitting a female enemy over the head on her royal barge.
She is power and beauty combined – Margaret Thatcher meets Princess Diana. In another sculpture, now in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, her slim, lissom body is depicted in all its glory, leaving little to the imagination. Still, today, the bright red of her lips and the kohl-black edges of those almond eyes smoulder across the passage of a hundred generations.
Together, Akhenaten and Nefertiti blazed a trail across Egypt, building spectacular temples. In Karnak, the pharaoh erected one temple, the Mansion of the Benben, to his beloved, stunning wife.
This image shows a computer reconstruction created using the skull of a mummy found in an earlier tomb. It bears a resemblance to Nefertiti
But it wasn't enough just to build temples. The royal couple's devotion to the god Aten – representing the disc of the sun – was so great that they created a whole new capital in his honour at Amarna, a city on the banks of the Nile.
They built the new city from scratch, putting up two temples to Aten and a pair of royal palaces. It was like the Queen and Prince Philip deciding to up sticks from Windsor Castle tomorrow and building a new royal palace in the middle of Cumbria.
Here, too, in Amarna, images of the lovely Nefertiti abound, sporting her distinctive, tall crown. She and her pharaoh are also shown receiving great piles of jewels and gold from their subject people.
They ruled over a civilisation of astonishing sophistication.
Among the discoveries are the Amarna Letters, more than 350 tablets excavated in the late 19th century, with 99 of them now in the British Museum. They tell the tale of a great nation with a highly developed diplomatic service. There are also rare chunks of poetry, parables and similes in the Amarna Letters. One striking line reads: 'For the lack of a cultivator, my field is like a woman without a husband.'
Nefertiti is thought to have lost her own cultivator – her husband –around 1336BC; it is then she may have reigned over Egypt alone.
Her own death is shrouded in mystery. She is reckoned to have died about six years after her husband, possibly from the plague that struck Egypt at that time.
In 1331BC, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun and moved the Egyptian capital to Thebes, where he died in 1323BC.