Conservation of Wall Paintings and Site Elements

Twenty-three tombs of the 19th and 20th Dynasty have surviving plaster or decoration and numerous site elements of great significance for understanding the history and use of the Queens Valley from pharaonic times through the Coptic period.

Many of the tombs and site elements cannot be opened to visitation due to their fragility or structural instability; they have suffered from deterioration, damage, and neglect over the centuries and require conservation treatments for their preservation.

The wall paintings in these closed tombs are in varying condition. Types of conditions include:

structural instability, collapse and loss of rock

flood damage

exposure to weathering (tombs currently without door or roof)

failure and deterioration of original plastering and painting materials

damage from reuse (fire damage, smoke blackening, deliberate defacement resulting from change of function)

vandalism and attempted theft of painting

bat-related damage to plasters and paintings

inappropriate and damaging remedial interventions and previous treatments (excessively strong plaster repairs that have caused cracking of the original painting, overcleaning of wall paintings that has removed fragile paint layers)

The Valley of the Queens and its subsidiary valleys contain a number of historic structures and features that are not tombs. Fourteen of these site elements, ranging in date from pharaonic, to Roman and Coptic periods, to the early twentieth century, have been identified and assessed. They include the Grotto Cascade, the ancient dam, the Coptic monastery at Deir er-Rumi, Hermit shelters, the Italian mission building, the Kiln, Sanctuary to Ptah and Meretseger, tomb workers' structures, and the Menhir. They all require management and protection or conservation. Concept proposals for all site elements have been completed for implementation by the Ministry of State for Antiquities.

The conservation of the wall paintings in all tombs with surviving decoration and training of Egyptian conservators is ongoing. Alongside this work has been the in-depth study of the composition and properties of the original earthen plasters applied to walls and ceilings of tombs as support for the paintings, in order to design compatible materials for their repair. (see Egyptian Plasters Research) The main aim of the conservation program is to stabilize surviving areas of decoration and to improve the methods, materials and approaches to undertaking treatment.

Page updated: August 2019