Tutankhamen Project to Involve Detailed Collaboration Between The SCA And GCI Teams Regarding Approaches to the Tomb's Conservation Challenges and Long-Term Preservation Issues
November 10, 2009
LOS ANGELES—Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) in Los Angeles today announced a five-year partnership to conserve and manage the tomb of Tutankhamen, Egypt’s most famous pharaoh.
The Tutankhamen project will undertake detailed planning for the conservation and management of the tomb and its wall paintings with the SCA and the GCI working jointly to design and implement the plan.
“King Tut has magic that we must conserve for future generations. I was happy when we CT scanned the mummy of King Tut in order to reveal the secrets of his family, but now I am even more thrilled to invite the Getty Conservation Institute to restore his tomb and return the glory of the boy king,” said Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, and Vice-Minister of Culture. “I am happy that the GCI will look at the tomb and preserve its beautiful scenes.”
Tim Whalen, Director of the GCI, said “It has been a privilege to work in Egypt on projects in the past, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to do so again. The SCA–GCI Tutankhamen project will include scientific analysis of the problems afflicting the tomb’s wall paintings, among other efforts, but the ultimate goal of our work with our Egyptian colleagues is to develop a long-term conservation and maintenance plan for this tomb that can also serve as a model for preservation of similar sites.”
Located in the Valley of the Kings within the World Heritage Site of Ancient Thebes, the tomb of Tutankhamen is the smallest of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, but perhaps the best known.
The burial place of the short-lived eighteenth-dynasty pharaoh was discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter with its spectacular funerary contents virtually intact.
The tomb’s extraordinary collection of artifacts – including numerous gold objects – is now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and has fascinated museum visitors for decades.
Compared to other tombs found in the Valley of the Kings, Tutankhamen's tomb is relatively simple – only the walls of the burial chamber are decorated. But the wall paintings in the chamber, as well as some of the tomb's other surfaces, are marred by disfiguring brown spots. The nature and origin of the spots, originally noted by Carter’s team, have never been fully ascertained, and they are among the technical conservation challenges presented by the tomb. One of the tasks that the project team will carry out is scientific analysis of these brown spots.
“I always see the tomb of King Tut and wonder about those spots, which no scientist has been able to explain. I have worried about these, and have asked experts to examine the scenes,” said Hawass.
Because of the tomb’s high number of visitors, which may affect the rate of deterioration, site management issues also will be addressed by the team.
The Tutankhamen project will involve an extensive exchange of ideas between the SCA and GCI regarding approaches to the conservation problems in the tomb and the tomb’s long-term preservation. The project will begin with a period of research and assessment that will last at least two years, which will include the preparation of an accurate record of the condition of the tomb, the sarcophagus, and the tomb’s wall paintings; the analysis and diagnosis of the causes of deterioration of the tomb, and the design, testing, and evaluation of appropriate interventions.
The second phase of the collaboration will focus on the implementation of the conservation plan for the tomb and its wall paintings, and documentation of the treatments. A program for long-term monitoring of the condition and maintenance of Tutankhamen’s tomb—as well as presentation, interpretation, and policies for visitation and other uses of the tomb—will be put into practice during the third phase. The second and third phases will be conducted simultaneously over a three-year period.
In the final phase, the results of the project will be evaluated and disseminated. The team anticipates the project will be complete in late 2013.
The conservation and management of the tomb of Tutankhamen is the GCI's most recent partnership with cultural authorities in Egypt. In the late 1980s, Institute staff worked with Egyptian colleagues and an international team on the conservation of wall paintings in the tomb of Queen Nefertari, wife of the powerful ruler Ramses II.
"We have great respect for the efforts made by our colleagues in Egypt to preserve their nation's wealth of cultural heritage and are very pleased to be working with them again on this ambitious new project," said James N. Wood, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust.
Other GCI work with Egyptian authorities has included the development of oxygen-free, anoxic 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 also is collaborating with the SCA on the development and implementation of a conservation and management plan for the Valley of the Queens.
For more information on the Tutankhamen project, or the GCI’s other work in Egypt, visit http://www.getty.edu/conservation/field_projects/current.html.
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