The “Boy-King" of Ancient Egypt is finally getting a makeover.
Tutankhamun's largest outer gilded coffin has left its tomb for the first time since it was discovered almost a century ago. Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquity has recently announced the scarcely seen coffin is currently undergoing its first-ever restoration work, ahead of going on display at the new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) set to open next year near the Pyramids of Giza.
Transporting an object as fragile as this, not to mention its value or cultural importance, is no small feat. The coffin was first moved on July 12 with tight security and specialized transportation units packed with acid-free materials that absorb humidity. Once it reached the GEM, the coffin was isolated in a room for a week-long fumigation and sterilization process.
Upon first glance at the coffin, restorators noted that it had developed cracks in its gilded layers of plaster and was extremely weak. It’s estimated that the whole process of restoration will take at least eight months of painstaking and highly skilled work.
When you imagine Tutankhamun, you most likely picture his iconic blue and gold death mask. Now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the mask was once placed directly over the mummified remains of the king’s body. However, it’s not widely known that Tutankhamun was actually encased in a series of shrines and chests, a bit like a Russian doll. This layer in question is the outermost coffin of three, consisting of a hefty gilded coffin with silver handles that measures some 2.23 meters (7 foot and 3 inches) in length.
Although Tutankhamun is perhaps one of the most known names in ancient Egypt, if not the entire ancient world, researchers know surprisingly little about the famed Pharoah. It’s believed King Tut was no older than 10 years old when he became pharaoh, ruling as one of the last kings of the 18th Dynasty between 1333 and 1323 BCE.
His tomb, often referred to as KV62, was first rediscovered in the modern age by colonial British archeologist Howard Carter in 1922. The king's God-like death mask captured the imagination of people worldwide and has become one of the most recognized historical relics of the world. The last time the treasures of Tutankhamun's tomb – a collection that didn't include the outer gilded coffin – came to the UK in 1972, over 1.7 million people queued for hours at the British Museum.
Among the many spectacular items found inside Tutankhamun's tomb, archeologists have discovered an ornamental dagger crafted out of an iron meteorite.