Radar Nerds Search for Ne­fer­titi

The beau­ti­ful Queen Ne­fer­titi’s tomb has never been found, but a spe­cial radar could change that.

Science Illustrated - - HISTORY -

Her name means “the beau­ti­ful one has come”, but no­body knows how beau­ti­ful Ne­fer­titi re­ally was, as the pow­er­ful queen’s earthly re­mains have never been dis­cov­ered. Ital­ian ar­chae­ol­o­gists headed by Pro­fes­sor Francesco Por­celli from the Univer­sity of Turin are go­ing to change that, us­ing ground­pen­e­trat­ing radar to map out the Val­ley of the Kings. The Nile val­ley con­tains 64 royal tombs from the New King­dom (1550-1070 BC), and ac­cord­ing to ar­chae­ol­o­gists, there could be more, in­clud­ing Ne­fer­titi's. The queen was the mother or step mother of Tu­tankhamun, and so, the project be­gan near his tomb, from where the radar ex­perts will cover the 9 km2 tomb area in an op­er­a­tion that might take the rest of the year.

The Egyp­tian Min­istry of An­tiq­ui­ties has or­dered Por­celli’s team to re­main silent about the project, but the sci­en­tists use three dif­fer­ent radar sys­tems, which can spot tombs as deep as 9 m into the rocky ground.

PO­TEN­TIAL: Find­ing the most pow­er­ful woman in Egypt and set­tling her re­la­tion­ship with Tu­tankhamun.

CHAL­LENGE: Com­plex sub­sur­face con­di­tions could af­fect radar mea­sure­ments.

W. FORMAN//GETTY IM­AGES

1 The radar sends elec­tro­mag­netic waves into the ground. 2 As the waves en­counter an ob­ject, the en­ergy is sent back to the sur­face. The time pass­ing from the waves are re­flected un­til they reach the sur­face tells ar­chae­ol­o­gists how deep insde the ground the ob­ject is lo­cated. 3 The radar reg­is­ters and in­ter­prets the in­for­ma­tion. Sci­en­tists use 3D tech­nol­ogy to pro­duce an im­age of the ob­jects' shapes and lo­ca­tions. Ne­fer­titi, who was mar­ried to Pharaoh Akhen­aten, ruled Egypt in 1353-1336 BC.

The Val­ley of the Kings is lo­cated 800 km down the Nile near Thebes.

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