In 2008 the Getty Conservation Institute and Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) entered into a five-year partnership to collaborate on a project for the conservation and management of the tomb of Tutankhamen.

wall paintings inside Tutankhamen's burial chamber

Few, if any, of the many extraordinary twentieth-century archaeological discoveries match the enduring fascination of the tomb of Tutankhamen, the Eighteenth Dynasty pharaoh who reigned for less than ten years. The treasure, the famous curse, recent CT scans of the mummy, speculations that the boy king was murdered, and mega-exhibits that travel the world keep the mystique alive for the public. Visitors to Egypt's Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor, having seen the pharaoh's treasure in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, line up to see the small tomb known as KV62, with its painted burial chamber, the original stone sarcophagus, the outermost coffin, and the mummy of Tutankhamen.

Pressure on the tomb from tourism led the SCA to seek help from the GCI for the tomb's conservation and management. The first field campaign to examine these issues took place in February 2009. Working in the close confines of the burial chamber and watched by an endless stream of curious visitors, the project team focused on examination and comprehensive documentation (photo and graphic) of the tomb and its wall paintings, looking specifically at condition, painting technology, and previous treatment interventions.

Project team members are undertaking extensive research, including review of reports, publications, analyses, historic photographs, and other sources of information. The aim is to synthesize all reliable information with the team's current findings over a two-year period, followed by preparation of a detailed conservation plan and presentation to the SCA for review and approval. Treatment may then require an additional two years to complete, and it will include examination of the sarcophagus and the gilded coffin within.

Among the curious features of the tomb are the disfiguring brown spots on the wall paintings. These were present when Howard Carter discovered the tomb in 1922. Ever since, conjecture has continued with regard to what they are, whether they are growing, and why other tombs in the Kings Valley do not exhibit a similar phenomenon. The project will seek to settle this issue.

Overall, the project aims to be comprehensive in approach. It includes training and involvement of SCA personnel, lighting and ventilation in the tomb, interpretation, and a visitor management plan. The next field campaign is scheduled for November 2009.