After 10 years of hard graft, King Tutankhamun’s newly renovated digs have been completed – and you can take a peek inside.
The boy pharaoh's final resting place is one of Egypt's top attractions, drawing throngs of tourists every year. The result has been decades of damage, reaped by harmful dust particles carried on visitors' clothing, heavy footfall, and filming equipment scratching the delicate wall paintings decorating the tomb.
In response, the Getty Conservation Institute in partnership with Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities began a decade-long restoration project to bring it back to its former glory, while protecting the tomb from future damage. Work began in 2009 and finished in the fall of 2018, the Institute reveals.
It is the most extensive renovation project to take place in the tomb since its discovery in 1922, when British archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter and his team inadvertently stumbled across the site.
The Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, is full of incredible historical monuments but Carter's find was even more extraordinary. It had been sealed for more than 3,000 years and was the very first tomb to be found entirely intact with all its treasures as they were at time of burial. Somehow it had managed to stay hidden and avoid being looted.
Every object removed from the tomb during the following decade was met with awe and fascination from the media and public. And though today the tomb contains just a few of its original artifacts, including a quartzite sarcophagus, a gilded wooden outermost sarcophagus, and – the main attraction itself – King Tut's mummy (his famous golden death mask is housed at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo), it continues to attract the interest of visitors from across the world.
At the time the renovation works began, the tomb was covered in a gray veil of dust brought in on the clothing and shoes of visitors. There was also damage to the wall paintings, caused by visitors as they brush past and heavy equipment brought in by film crews. The dust has been removed and barriers have now been installed to restrict visitor access in areas showing localized flaking and loss of paint. Ventilation and filtration systems have been put in to cap humidity and dust levels, and so protect the tomb from future damage.
The team also noted the appearance of brown blemishes (microbial growth) within the paintwork. They are hard to remove without further damaging the paintwork but, fortunately, DNA testing and chemical analysis found that these growths are no longer alive, therefore, no longer a threat. According to Lorinda Wong, a specialist in wall paintings, the growths are unusual and haven't been seen in the tombs of other pharaohs.
"This project has greatly expanded our understanding of one of antiquity's most storied places," Tim Whalen from the Getty Conservation Institute, said in a statement.