An all-Egyptian archaeological team led by Dr. Zahi Hawass is learning that Nicholas Reeves' recently released radar data from the Valley of the Kings does not in fact show the location of the long-awaited “KV64” - only further excavation can reveal where the next unknown tomb will be discovered.
In August of 2000, Nicholas Reeves’s Amarna Royal Tombs Project engaged Japanese engineer Hirokatsu Watanabe to conduct a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of the central area of the Valley of the Kings using a custom-built 400 MHz radar system. The results of this survey were not published, and were filed away for many years. In 2006, however, soon after Otto Schaden’s team from the University of Memphis announced their discovery of KV63, Reeves declared that his GPR survey had actually identified the location of the tomb in 2000. He released some data at that time indicating that the radar had indeed picked up an anomaly in the area where KV63 was eventually found. At the same time, he announced that the long-unpublished results of the survey revealed an additional anomaly just to the southeast of KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun. He went so far as to say that this anomaly might represent an unknown 18th Dynasty tomb, which would be given the number KV64 if its location could be verified by excavation.
Reeves is not the only person to have suggested recently that he knew where KV64 could be found. In February of 2006, a geologist named Stephen Cross studied the pattern of ancient flood deposits in the central valley. Based on the distribution of flood debris, Cross stated that if there was another 18th Dynasty tomb in the central valley, its entrance would most likely be located to the east of KV62, not far from the anomaly that Reeves has identified as KV64.At the end of 2008, Reeves finally released a full analysis of the results of the 2000 GPR survey on his website. This analysis identifies nine different anomalies in the central valley, each of which, according to Reeves, could indicate an underground cavity. The feature that he has suggested could represent KV64 is identified as “Feature 5” in the new report.
In 2007, the first all-Egyptian archaeological team ever to work in the Valley of the Kings began excavations under my direction. We have been digging in the area between KV7, the tomb of Ramesses II, and KV8, the tomb of Merenptah. The objects that have emerged at this site include a large amount of pottery, as well as a number of beautifully decorated ostraca (painted limestone flakes, often used by artists to practice drawing or by scribes to write letters and other texts). Excitingly, one of these ostraca bears the name of a previously unknown queen.
In the 2008-2009 season, I decided to investigate the suggestion that KV64 might lie in the central valley to the east of the tomb of Tutankhamun. My team and I have sunk a trench in the area, extending toward the north from just northeast of KV63?. This trench, which encompasses the area that Reeves labels as “Feature 5,” has revealed the bases of a number of small, square buildings constructed in stone (which I believe are storage buildings) at a depth of about 3 meters, indicating that they date to the Ramessid period. The excavation has also shown that the floor of the valley in this area lies some 6 meters below the current surface. Reeves’s team used an antenna with a frequency of 400 MHz. This frequency is well suited to obtaining high-resolution images of relatively shallow features such as the storage buildings, but it is unlikely that Reeves’s GPR survey could have detected a tomb below the valley floor. It seems that “Feature 5” is nothing more than a reflection of one or more of these stone foundations.
Another anomaly identified by Reeves’s 2000 survey lies just to the west of the present-day rest house, and about 6 meters east of the tomb of Tutankhamun. Labeled “Feature 2” by Reeves, this anomaly appears to be a long, narrow cavity with a deeper hollow at its eastern end. Superficially, it resembles an entrance corridor and a tomb chamber. In 2008-2009, however, my team accepted the cooperation of the Glen Dash Foundation for Archaeological Research in conducting our own radar survey of the central valley. The preliminary results of this survey indicate that Reeves’s “Feature 2” may be nothing more than a pair of parallel, natural east-west fissures in the bedrock of the valley, which diverge at their eastern extent to delineate a wider area. These fissures probably caused the radar anomaly. Reeves makes no mention of this possibility, indicating that he failed to take the natural geology of the valley into consideration in interpreting his radar results.
My excavations have also allowed us to pinpoint the location of buried electrical wires in the central valley, in the same area where Reeves’s radar survey showed “Feature 5.” According to the experts from the Dash Foundation, these electrical wires could have produced the anomaly that Reeves has interpreted as a possible KV64. What we have learned from comparing the results of our work with Reeves’s interpretation of his 2000 radar data is that radar can only hint at what lies below the ground. In order to discover the truth, we must use archaeological methods to investigate each site layer by layer. The recent radar survey that my team and the Dash Foundation have conducted used a 200 MHz radar. Although our preliminary results only illuminate the upper levels of the valley, with a radar of this strength, we can refine our results digitally and see much deeper than Reeves’s 2000 study was able to. Perhaps we will soon spot the real KV64 deep below the paths where tourists walk today. Only archaeology will tell.