Examination of the wall paintings in Tutankhamen's Tomb: Inconsistencies in original technology

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Wong, Lori; Rickerby, Stephen; Phenix, Alan; Rava, Amarilli; Kamel, Rasha;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 57, Number S1, p.322-330 (2012)


The collaboration between Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) to conserve the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings provided an opportunity for in-depth investigation of the techniques and original materials of the burial chamber wall paintings. Examination through visual observations, in situ microscopy and ex situ analysis of samples identified discrepancies in setting-out and preliminary procedures and variance in planning and execution from wall to wall. These incongruities can be explained by workshop practice and other constraints, not uncommon in ancient Egyptian tomb execution. However, they additionally support the premise that the early death of the young Pharaoh, and the subsequent adaptation of a pre-existing tomb, had a significant impact on its construction and decoration. Moreover, it is possible that these unique circumstances contributed to particular forms of deterioration, most notably the extensive presence of brown spots on the painting scheme. Reassessing the technical history of the tomb is therefore an essential first step in formulating appropriate approaches to its current conservation.