Just months after archaeologists gleefully clamored over the first tomb to be found in Egypt's Valley of the Kings since 1922, there may be another.
Located just meters from the last tomb -- KV-63 excavated earlier this year -- Nicholas Reeves of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project, working under the Valley of the Kings Foundation, claims the group has detected what he believes will turn out to be another tomb, and possibly a royal one at that.
"This new discovery is important on several levels," he said in an e-mail. "First of all, for what it might turn out to be -- perhaps the burial place of Akhenaten's missing women and not impossibly Nefertiti herself, the most beautiful woman of the ancient world.
"Second, for what, in strategic terms, it might do for archaeology in the Valley of the Kings -- by its staggering potential to pull Egyptologists up short and ensure that work in the Valley slows down, focuses itself, prepares adequately and doesn't miss a trick either within or outside the tombs when the digging begins."
As with the discovery of KV-63, it's not just what treasures may lie inside, but the overall message another tomb might send that has many in the archeology community excited.
Without a doubt the most significant find in the Valley of the Kings to date was the discovery of King Tutankhamen's final resting place by British Egyptologist Howard Carter on November 4, 1922 -- designated KV-62 -- near the entrance to the tomb of Ramses VI.
At the time, many archaeologists had already begun to think of the Valley as dried up, lacking further finds of any real importance, but Carter's find reinvigorated the archaeology community and sparked public interest in the ancient civilization.
When it was first uncovered, it was hoped that KV-63 would do the same. Archaeologists hoped the tomb would be filled with ornate jewels, elaborately decorated sarcophagi and artwork, and maybe even a mummy.
Inside KV-63, scientists found no gems or mummies, only embalming and burial supplies and a number of coffins.
The archaeologists were thrilled, but the public, which is often the driving force behind expensive, long and sometimes unfruitful digs, are typically unimpressed when the discoveries are more scientific than shiny.
Still, Reeves said that whenever anything is found in the Valley, it holds the potential to be a thrilling discovery that touches us all.
"If there is one subject with almost universal romantic appeal, it is Egyptology; within Egyptology it's the Valley of the Kings; and within the Valley of the Kings it's the lost tomb of Nefertiti," wrote Reeves. "If romance doesn't do it for you, then imagine that KV-64 proves not only to be a tomb, and Nefertiti's at that, but a tomb that is hermetically sealed like Tutankhamen's before Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter clumsily smashed their way in.
"The excavator would have before him a unique time capsule, a veritable day-in-the-life-of-ancient-Egypt containing not only burial equipment and a mummy but more fugitive data, too -- air samples, smells, pollen, insects, microbes, dust; an entire ancient environment. Imagine capturing that, analyzing it. What could it tell us? What could 21st century science do with such data? I'll wager a lot."
Reeves said the team first discovered what he believes is a tomb back in 2000 when taking electronic surveys of the area using high-tech radar equipment.
At the time, they noticed two "anomalies," one which turned out to be KV-63 and another which has the same characteristics as KV-63, but which has yet to be uncovered.
Though there are no plans to begin digging as of yet, Reeves hopes that alerting the public to the possible existence of another tomb will ease pressure on Egyptologists working in the area to speed up their laborious work.
On the Web site for the Valley of the Kings Foundation, of which Reeves is a member, he wrote:
"Faced with evidence for a second intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings, those who understand the nature of the archaeological game in Egypt will feel not excitement but an overwhelming anxiety, for there will be inevitable pressure for quick results. This pressure must be resisted: Speed equates to loss, and it falls to the responsibility of every one of us to ensure that Egypt and Egyptology are not denied the further, extraordinary opportunity they are now presented with.
"KV-64 must be the platform from which to insist that any and all future investigations in the Valley of the Kings are approached with immense caution and carried out methodically to a larger plan by well-funded, professional archaeologists sensitive to all the site's possibilities and needs. The recovery of every ounce of the Valley's remaining potential must be the aim -- nothing less will do.
"If Egyptology cannot meet these basic obligations, then clearly, no further work should be contemplated; all archaeology is destruction, and it stands to reason that what has been dug foolishly and in haste cannot later be undug sensibly and at leisure. Let us try, this time around, to get it right."