When archaeologists uncovered King Tut’s nearly intact tomb in 1922, the boy king became one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous modern symbols. Photographed, visited, and meticulously studied, the tomb seems to have given up all of its secrets. Unless, archaeologists wondered, it hid another tomb—the long-lost resting place of Nefertiti.
Now, those hopes have been laid to rest. As the Associated Press reports, new studies show that there are no hidden rooms beyond the tomb.
It’s an anticlimactic end to a dramatic archaeological mystery. In 2016, archaeologists announced that organic material or metal could be hidden behind the walls of the tomb—a clue that more might lie beyond its walls.
Experts have long speculated that they might find the lost tomb of Nefertiti within. That might have been “the discovery of the century,” an Egyptian official said at a news conference in 2016. As the New York Times noted, the news was seen not only as an archaeological breakthrough, but a way to potentially bolster Egypt’s floundering tourism industry.
At the time, archaeologists said there was a 90 percent chance of a new chamber. But that chance seems to have dwindled to zero.
When a team of Italian archaeologists used ground-penetrating radar to study the site, reports the AP, they didn’t find any corridors or rooms next to King Tut’s tomb. “Unfortunately, our work is not supporting this theory,” Francisco Porcelli, the archaeologist who presented the team’s findings, said in a press conference.
Nefertiti was the principal wife of Akhenaten, Tutankhamen’s father. It’s thought that she ruled alongside her pharaoh husband at one point, and that she may have become pharaoh herself after his death. However, her existence in the historical record is scant and her tomb has never been found. In 1912, archaeologists discovered a regal bust representing the queen. It’s become one of the most recognizable objects of ancient Egyptian art and has fueled hopes that there’s even more to learn.
British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves originated the theory that her tomb might be tucked in next to King Tut’s. “If I’m right, we’re now faced with the extraordinary prospect of coming face-to-face with an intact Egyptian pharaonic tomb,” he told NPR in 2015. “Not the tomb of any old king that nobody’s ever heard of, but the tomb of Nefertiti, a woman actually who was far more than a pretty face.”
Turns out Reeves’ theory was an empty promise—but the search for her final resting place lives on.