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A massive conservation project at the tomb of King Tutankhamun has finally concluded after nine years.
Since the discovery of the 19-year-old pharaoh’s tomb in 1922, it has remained one of Egypt’s most legendary and popular attractions, luring travelers to the Valley of Kings to see the remarkably intact chamber, complete with illustrious wall paintings and a quartzite sarcophagus and wood coffin containing the original mummy of King Tut.
But over time, researchers became concerned about the obvious damage from tourists, which came in the form of dust, abrasions and microbes. In 2009, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities partnered to thoroughly restore the ancient tomb — and protect it from future harm. Despite project delays, the work was completed at the end of January.
Though the tomb was open during the conservation effort (affording tourists the unusual opportunity to watch conservators at work and ask questions about the project), travelers who visit the tomb now will be able to enjoy the many improvements.
In addition to carefully restored wall paintings, painstakingly freed from decades of dust, the archaeological site has improved walkways and a viewing platform (to prevent further damage to the wall paintings) as well as an air filtration and ventilation system to preserve the tomb and improved signage and lighting, to enhance the visitor experience.
“As in all of our collaborative projects, the GCI has taken the long view, with the intent to provide sustainable conservation and site management outcomes,” said Neville Agnew, senior principal project specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute, in a statement.
The conservators even discovered that the mysterious brown spots speckling the wall paintings, thought to be caused by moisture and carbon from tourists, were microbial in origin but no longer alive, suggesting that they may have formed shortly after King Tut’s tomb was sealed.
Though tourists are welcome to visit the original tomb, an incredibly detailed replica was opened nearby in 2014, in an effort to siphon travelers away from the original. It’s possible that, in the future, access to King Tut’s original burial chamber may one day be restricted — the groundwork, certainly, is in place for a regulation of this kind.
King Tut’s newly-restored tomb is just the latest piece of good news for a country still rebounding from years of upheaval. Last year, Egyptian archaeologists unearthed a new sphinx and opened the 4,000-year-old Tomb of Mehu to the public.
And with a new 366-room St. Regis opening its doors in Cairo this spring, and the long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum still on the horizon, it could very well be time to add Egypt to your travel itinerary.
Feature image by MOHAMED EL-SHAHED / Contributor / Getty Images.
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