Biblical Archaeology Review 45:3, May/June 2019

Strata: Tutankhamun’s Tomb Back in Business

When it was discovered, in 1922, the untouched tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun became a global sensation, offering a mesmerizing display of the wealth of pharaonic Egypt.

But what had survived 3,250 years hidden from looters is now vulnerable to the tiniest culprits, such as dust, carbon dioxide, and increased humidity—all being introduced by the myriad tourists that annually flood the tomb. The harm to its colorful wall paintings and original objects, including the king’s mummy that lies in its sarcophagus, threatened to permanently close King Tut’s final resting place. Luckily, a better solution prevailed.

Between 2009 and 2019, a team from the Getty Conservation Institute and Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities carried out research, conservation, and infrastructure improvements in the tomb that not only mended the damage but also put in place environmental monitoring and a ventilation system to prevent future degradation of this prime cultural heritage site. After a decade of painstaking work, Tutankhamun’s tomb is now fully accessible and ready to welcome visitors.

Simultaneously, three different teams conducted a geophysical survey to determine whether there remain any secret chambers to be explored. The three independent ground-penetrating radar studies of the tomb walls finally disproved the theory of Nicholas Reeves of the University of Arizona that the long-lost tomb of Queen Nefertiti may be hiding behind King Tut’s burial chamber.

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