The Getty Conservation Institute has embarked on a five-year collaboration with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) on a project for the conservation and management of the tomb of Tutankhamen (KV 62). The project follows a values-based conservation methodology where the archaeological, historic, artistic values, and significance of the tomb guide future conservation and management decisions.
The Tomb of Tutankhamen is in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of the Nile River, at the modern-day city of Luxor. The tomb was part of the necropolis of ancient Thebes during the New Kingdom (ca. 1548—1086 BCE) and is today a World Heritage Site. Discovered in November 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter, the treasure-filled eighteenth-dynasty tomb of the short-lived pharaoh Tutankhamen (r. 1328—1319 BCE) attained instant and lasting fame. Though KV 62 is one of the smallest of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, it was found with its spectacular funerary contents virtually intact.
Typically, the walls and ceilings of Egyptian royal tombs are decorated with religious texts. By comparison, Tutankhamen's tomb is relatively simple with only the four walls of its burial chamber decorated. The wall paintings are marred by disfiguring brown spots, the nature and origin of which have never been fully ascertained, though they were noted by the excavation team in 1923.
Today, the tomb is one of the most heavily visited sites in the Theban necropolis. The Egyptian authorities have expressed particular concern that the large numbers of visitors could be adversely contributing to the tomb's physical deterioration. The GCI—SCA team is working to study and investigate these concerns and to design and implement a plan for the conservation and management of the tomb and its wall paintings that will ensure its future preservation.
The project is divided into three phases. During the first phase (2009–2011), work encompassed background research and assessment, the preparation of an accurate record of the condition of the tomb and its wall paintings, the scientific analysis of materials and techniques of the paintings, study of environmental conditions, and diagnosis of the causes of their deterioration. The results of this research determine conservation needs.
The second and third phases (2012–2014) occur simultaneously over a three-year period. The second phase focuses on testing, evaluation and implementation of appropriate interventions for the tomb and its wall paintings and development of a long-term condition monitoring plan. The tomb infrastructure (walkways, protective barriers, ventilation, lighting, and signage) will also be updated and improved during this phase along with recommendations for limiting visitor numbers. Throughout the course of the project, SCA conservators, scientists and staff will undergo training in conservation and site management.
In the third phase, results of the project will be evaluated and disseminated to both professional and public audiences through print, visual, and web-based media. The planned dissemination aims to promote good conservation and management practice in Egypt, enhance SCA staff professional capabilities, and advance the general public's understanding of conservation practices.
The project components include:
Establish an accurate record of the present condition of the tomb and its wall paintings
Establish the causes of deterioration of the wall paintings through a comprehensive program of visual examination, condition monitoring, and scientific investigation
Ascertain the causes and nature of the brown spots found on the wall paintings and whether they pose a continuing risk to the wall paintings
Study the environmental conditions of the tomb and its exterior macroclimate
Assess the physical and environmental impact of visitors on the preservation of KV 62 and establish safe visitation parameters
Assess the geological and hydrological risks to the tomb
Design and implement a conservation program for the tomb and its wall paintings based on diagnosis of risk and treatment testing and evaluation
Create a long-term condition monitoring strategy for KV 62 and its wall paintings
Enhance the interpretation and presentation of the tomb and its contents
Provide training opportunities for SCA staff in all aspects of the project, from planning through treatment of the wall paintings
Disseminate the results of the work and the information resulting from it
Page updated: March 2013