The Getty Conservation Institute in partnership with Egypt's Ministry of State for Antiquities in embarked on the Valley of the Queens Project to undertake detailed and comprehensive planning for the conservation and management of the Valley and to jointly implement the results of the plan; provide training for Egyptian personnel in areas of wall paintings conservation and management of archaeological sites; and coordinate closely with other groups working in the West Bank to promote an integrated approach to conservation of ancient Thebes.
The Queens Valley Project was conceived in two phases. Phase 1 of the project (2006—2010) involved comprehensive research, planning and assessment, culminating in the development of detailed plans, and architectural and engineering drawings where applicable, for Flood Mitigation; Tomb Stabilization and Protection; Conservation of Wall Paintings and Site Elements; Site and Visitor Management; and Site and Visitor Infrastructure.
Phase 2 of the project, implementation of these plans, was intended to begin in 2011. Only conservation of the wall paintings in many of the tombs has been undertaken to date. The bulk of the intended implementation was interrupted by events in Egypt in 2011 and again in 2013.
The Valley of the Queens Project is the Conservation Institute's latest collaborative project with Egypt. From 1986 to 1992, Institute staff worked with Egyptian colleagues and an international team on the conservation of the wall paintings in the tomb of Queen Nefertari, the powerful queen of ruler Ramses II. The thirteenth-century BCE tomb, considered among the most beautiful to have survived from Egyptian antiquity, is located in the Valley of the Queens.
Other GCI collaborative work with Egyptian authorities has included the development of oxygen-free display and storage cases for the Royal Mummies in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and an environmental monitoring study of the Great Sphinx at the Giza Plateau outside Cairo. Currently, the GCI is also collaborating with Egyptian authorities on the conservation of the tomb of Tutankhamen.
Significance of the Valley of the Queens
The principal significance of the Valley of the Queens from the 18th Dynasty (1550—1295 BCE) through the 20th (1295—1080 BCE), was as a burial ground, first for officials, and later for royal wives, daughters, and sons.
Often anonymous, 18th-Dynasty tombs, with their vertical shaft and chamber design, are without inscription or decoration. While identification of tomb owners has only been possible through archaeological evidence and recovered artifacts, it seems the earliest use of the Valley of the Queens was for lower royals and members of the court.
Beginning in the 19th Dynasty and with increasing royal patronage, multi-chambered tombs with entrance ramps and lavish painted decoration became the norm. The Valley of the Queens, as a complement to the Valley of the Kings and as part of the Theban necropolis as a whole, retains significance of the highest order despite damage to most tombs from flood, looting, and reuse in antiquity and is key to understanding the changing role and status of royal women in the 19th Dynasty.
The Valley of the Queens was also linked physically to other sites in the necropolis through workmen's paths radiating from Deir el-Medina. The workers' Sanctuary to Ptah and Meretseger overlooking the Valley is manifest evidence of this, as are the remains of workmen's huts in the Valley. Later Roman- and Coptic-era reuse of tombs and the remains of the Coptic monastery, Deir er-Rumi, demonstrate powerfully the archaeological sequence of use in the Valley, which spans several thousand years. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Italian archaeologist Ernesto Schiaparelli was active in the Valley and discovered many tombs, including that of Nefertari.
The Valley of the Queens is a major component of the World Heritage site of Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis. The historic, artistic, and research values of the Valley, and its role as an integral part of the Theban necropolis, require that the site as a whole be managed and conserved in a way that will not degrade or diminish its significance. For over a century, the Valley has compelled the interest of scholars, filmmakers, photographers, and millions of visitors and travelers worldwide. Preservation of all its values is of the highest priority in considering how the site should be conserved, managed, and presented for the future.
Principal problems and threats
The principal problems and threats that are impacting the long-term preservation and integrity of the Valley of the Queens are:
rock collapse in many tombs and extensive damage with loss of original wall paintings due to geological anomalies of the site in conjunction with flash flooding in the past
extensive reuse of the tombs in late antiquity, during the Third Intermediate, Roman, and Coptic periods, resulting in significant damage from fire and alteration
deterioration and defacement of paintings in many tombs as a result of inhabitation by bat colonies
rise of mass tourism to the site causing extreme overcrowding and uncomfortable conditions within the tombs
poor presentation of the site and tombs and lack of interpretation of the site, including its post-pharaonic use, and wall paintings
Underlying all these problems is the absence of effective site management to ensure the site's long-term sustainability.
The aim of the project is to address these threats and impacts to the site in a comprehensive program that addresses Flood Mitigation, Tomb Stabilization and Protection, Conservation of Wall Paintings and Site Elements, Site and Visitor Management, and Site and Visitor Infrastructure.
Page updated: August 2014