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Getty Conservation Institute embarks on five-year King Tut project

November 10, 2009 | 12:18 pm

Tut The tomb of Egypt's Tutankhamen -- better known as King Tut -- is coming under new management.

In a five-year partnership that was formally announced today, the J. Paul Getty Trust said it will work with  Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities to draft and implement a conservation and management plan of the tomb and its wall paintings.

The partnership will involve the Getty Conservation Institute, which is based in Los Angeles, and the SCA, which is located in Cairo.

The tomb of Tutankhamen is one of the most popular attractions in Egypt. The new project will determine how to safeguard the site's treasures and slow the rate of deterioration.

The project is expected to cost the Getty about $1.5 million over the five years, according to Tim Whalen, director of the Getty Conservation Institute. The Getty's team will be led by Jeanne Marie Teutonico and will comprise six other specialists.

The $1.5-million figure does not include staff and other labor expenses, Whalen said.

Egypt's SCA is also expected to contribute as-yet-undetermined financial resources and personnel to the project.

"I want to stress the comprehensive nature of this project," Whalen said.

In addition to conservation plans, he said, the project will create strategies to better accommodate visitors to the ancient site.

Whalen added that the tomb is in "pretty good shape" but said the painted surfaces pose some challenges, due to deterioration.

The project will be divided into multiple stages. The first phase, expected to last at least two years, will include the preparation of an accurate record of the condition of the tomb, the sarcophagus and the tomb’s wall paintings. The Getty and the SCA will also draw up a conservation plan for the tomb.

In subsequent phases, the Getty and SCA will implement the plan and put in place a long-term strategy for management of the site.

Zahi Hawass, who is secretary-general of the SCA and vice minister of culture, said in a statement today that a top concern is to ascertain the nature of a number of brown spots that have disfigured some surfaces.

“I always see the tomb of King Tut and wonder about those spots, which no scientist has been able to explain. I have worried about these, and have asked experts to examine the scenes,” he said. 

The partnership is the latest in a series of collaborations between the Getty and the SCA, including work in Egypt's Valley of the Queens.

Work on the King Tut project has already begun and is expected to last through late 2013, the Getty said.

-- David Ng

Photo: the tomb of Tutankhamen. Credit: Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities / EPA