VALLEY OF THE KINGS, Egypt Â· There was hope of finding a mummy inside the 3,300-year-old coffin, and when it was finally opened Wednesday someone excitedly whispered, "A neck." But it was not.
Instead, the coffin was packed with bits and pieces of materials used to prepare mummies, including elaborate collars decorated with flowers, and one with gold beads.
That no mummies were found in KV 63 — the first tomb discovered in the Valley of the Kings in nearly 84 years — was neither disappointing nor entirely surprising to those who unearthed the tomb and painstakingly worked to preserve all that they found inside.
"We found hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of mummies, but we never discovered something like this," said Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief Egyptologist, as he peered at the contents. "Look at what we discovered here, look at it."
Archaeology is about patience, and about expecting the unexpected. It is about finding a clue in the sand and gently sifting through layers of time. KV 63 has offered up many mysteries. Seven coffins were found inside and each was filled with items like pillows, linens and broken pottery.
But archaeology is also about show business, and in modern Egypt the master of ceremonies, the only man allowed to pull back the curtain for the audience, is Hawass, the general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. He has a theory about KV 63, but by the end of the day Wednesday it was hard to know how much of that was show business and how much science, or whether there was a bit of both.
His theory was that the tomb was the burial place of King Tut’s mother, Queen Kiya. While there is evidence linking Tut’s tomb with this one, others who have actually worked inside the newest tomb said there was no evidence a mummy was ever buried there.
On Wednesday, Hawass became the star of a Discovery Channel program scheduled to be broadcast July 9 about the new tomb, the one he contends was the burial place of King Tut’s mother.
Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t.
Deep beneath the surface, as Hawass performed for the cameras — pointing, thinking, walking, staring — Otto Schaden stood off to the side and in a very clinical manner laid out what seemed to be a refutation of Hawass’ theory. Schaden, an Egyptologist from the University of Memphis, found the tomb in February. He said there was some evidence linking the tomb he discovered to the tomb of King Tut. The face carved on one of the coffins was similar to the one on King Tut’s coffin. There were similar seals and large sealed jars in the new discovery that were also similar to what was found in Tut’s tomb.
But, Schaden said in his understated way, the team had not uncovered any evidence that mummies had ever been buried in KV 63. "It was set up as a tomb, but it may not have been used," Schaden said. "That is not unusual. Many tombs were built or they started to be built and were abandoned."
Though the new discovery did not compare with the marvels of golden masks, jewels and statues found in Tut’s tomb, experts said it was a major scientific discovery that ultimately could catapult understanding of ancient Egypt.
"I prayed to find a mummy, but when I saw this, I said it’s better — it’s really beautiful," said Nadia Lokma, chief curator of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
"These discoveries are always very thrilling, because they give us a new glimpse into the ancient Egyptians’ universe, and can push scientific research forward," said Lokma.
Information from The Associated Press was used to supplement this report.