In Brief

The Restoration of the Tomb of Tutankhamen Is Complete

The Getty Conservation Institute and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities have completed a nearly decade-long restoration project of the 3,000-year-old tomb.

East wall of the tomb’s burial chamber. Tutankhamen’s mummy is shown, lying in a shrine mounted on a sledge, being drawn by twelve men in five groups. The men wear white mourning bands over their brows. The last pair, distinguished by their shaven heads and different dress, are the two viziers of Upper and Lower Egypt. (Credit: Carleton Immersive Media Studio; Carleton University © J. Paul Getty Trust)

After nearly a decade of work, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) has finally completed its restoration of the Tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt.

Since archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the 3,000-year-old tomb in 1922, millions of tourists have traveled to see its magnificent wall paintings, its quartzite sarcophagus, and the mummy of King Tutankhamen himself, displayed in an oxygen-free case in the burial chamber. But these visitors have brought with them dust and changes in humidity and carbon dioxide levels, which promotes microbiological growth. Conservators were concerned that mysterious brown spots on the painted walls were expanding. A thin veil of gray dust had settled over the tomb’s surfaces, which needed careful cleaning.

Undertaking a visual examination of the wall painting in the burial chamber, February 2009  (Credit: Carleton Immersive Media Studio; Carleton University © J. Paul Getty Trust)

In 2009, with help from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, the GCI brought in a team of environmental engineers, architects and designers to improve the tomb’s infrastructure, an Egyptologist to conduct background research, microbi­ologists to study the brown spots, and conservators to treat the walls. Together, they carried out the most intensive study and restoration of the tomb since Carter’s time.

A section of the south wall in the burial chamber of Tutankhamen. Mirroring the theme of the north wall, the painting here shows Tutankhamen with various deities. He stands before Hathor, goddess of the West, while behind the king stands Anubis, the embalmer god. Behind him originally stood the goddess Isis with three other minor deities the plaster supporting these figures was removed when Carter dismantled the partition wall during the tomb’s clearance. (Credit: Carleton Immersive Media Studio; Carleton University © J. Paul Getty Trust)

To keep the tomb in good condition for generations to come, the GCI has devised a sustainable plan for its continued management. “Conservation and preservation is important for the future and for this heritage and this great civilization to live forever,” Zahi Hawass, Egyptologist and former minister of State for Antiquities in Egypt, said in a statement.

The tomb’s makeover included the addition of new barriers that restrict visitor access to delicate areas, improved signage and lighting, and the installation of a ventilation and filtration system to reduce the risk of future damage. Thanks to dust removal, the wall paintings — which depict King Tut, often called the “Boy King,” who was born around 1341 B.C. and ruled Egypt from age nine until his death as a teenager — have regained their brilliance.

The burial chamber’s west wall depicts an extract from the Book of Amduat or “What is in the Underworld”. The upper register depicts the solar barque preceded by five deities. In compartments below are twelve baboon-deities, represent-ing the twelve hours of the night through which the sun travels before its rebirth at dawn. (Credit: Carleton Immersive Media Studio; Carleton University © J. Paul Getty Trust)
Wall paintings conservation work being conducted in the burial chamber of the tomb in spring 2016. ( © J. Paul Getty Trust)
Wall paintings conservation work being conducted in the burial chamber of the tomb in spring 2016. ( © J. Paul Getty Trust)
Wall paintings conservation work being conducted in the burial chamber of the tomb in winter 2016. ( © J. Paul Getty Trust)
Environmental monitoring outside the Tomb of Tutankhamen (© J. Paul Getty Trust)

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