When you think of Tutankhamun, you almost certainly picture his fabulous, solid gold and lapis lazuli death mask. But that mask was but the innermost of layers upon layers of coffins and sarcophagi which housed the pharaoh’s remains.
Tutankhamun’s tomb was in fact something like a Russian Matryoshka doll. First were four successive shrines, one inside the other. Inside those was a massive stone sarcophagus. Inside that were, not one, but three coffins, each inside the other. The innermost coffins, one of solid gold, the other wood covered with gold, have been on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo since soon after the tomb was discovered in 1922.
Tutankhamun’s outermost wooden coffin, on the other hand, had never left his tomb for 3,300 years. Until last year.
Earlier this year, the Getty Conservation Institute and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities finished a nearly 10-year-long restoration of Tut’s tomb. Now, wrote The Los Angeles Times, they’ll restore his outer coffin, removing it from its resting place and allowing experts to finally get a good look[…]
Only in July, 97 years [after Howard Carter’s discovery], was the casket removed under intense security in order for it to be fumigated for three weeks.
With careful yet thorough restoration now underway, experts have had the rare opportunity to inspect the outer coffin up close and reveal photos for all to see.
Unfortunately, leaving the coffin in situ, once the tomb was opened, has left it exposed to damaging elements. While much of Tutankhamun’s relics, including his mummy itself, are safely stored in carefully controlled environments, the outer coffin has suffered a lot of damage over the past century.
Given the damage to the coffin that experts have now seen, however, it will take about eight months to restore it. Eissa Zeidan, the general director of First Aid Conservation and Transportation of Artifacts, said the coffin is about “30 percent damaged” due to the heat and humidity inside the tomb.
“The coffin is in a very bad condition, very deteriorated,” said Zeidan. “We found many cracks, we found many missing parts, missing layers.”
Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany confirmed as much when he said the coffin was in a “very fragile” state, with repair work being top priority. The 7-foot, 3-inch-long coffin has been safely kept in one of the 17 laboratories within the new museum.
A mammoth effort is underway to protect the entirety of Tutankhamun’s tomb from further damage.
Restoration of King Tut’s tomb came after years of tourists trudging through the majestic heritage site. Both the Getty Conservation Institute and Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities committed to the extensive revamp nearly a decade ago and finally finished in January.
Their efforts included installing an air filtration and ventilation system to regulate the humidity, carbon dioxide, and dust levels inside. Lighting, as well as new platforms from which tourists can see the sarcophagus, were added too.
Of greatest concern were the strange brown spots on the tomb’s paintings, which suggested microbial growth in the room. These were found to have been mere discolorations due to fungus that had been there since the tomb’s discovery.
Thankfully, neither fungus nor anything else has taken down Tut’s tomb. Now, after a long period of restoration, it will live on for many more visitors to see. And after the most recent restoration of the outermost coffin, visitors will have the most complete picture yet of how the boy king was buried.
The outer coffin itself will join its former companions, and more than 5000 other artifacts from the tomb, in the new Grand Egyptian Museum.
With more than 75,000 square feet of real estate, it’ll be the biggest museum on Earth exclusively dedicated to one civilization[…]
When work on the pharaoh’s gilded coffin concludes and the Grand Egyptian Museum officially opens, it will be the first time in history that King Tut’s three coffins will be on display together.All That’s Interesting
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