Mysterious brown spots in the Tomb of Tutankhamun will be fully investigated during a five-year project to restore the burial site of the boy king, Egypt's antiquities department announced Tuesday.
The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has partnered with the California-based Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) to work on the conservation and management of the more than 3,000-year-old tomb.
"I am happy that Getty will look at the tomb and preserve its beautiful scenes," Dr. Zahi Hawass, the SCA's secretary general, said in a statement.
Located in the Valley of the Kings, the tomb of Tutankhamen is among the most heavily visited sites in the Theban necropolis. The five-year conservation project follows concern that the large number of people visiting the pharaoh's resting place may be contributing to its physical deterioration.
Discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter with almost all of its contents intact, Tutankhamen's is the smallest of the 26 royal tombs discovered in the Valley of the Kings.
Of the tomb's four rooms, only the walls of the burial chamber are decorated.
However, the wall paintings in this chamber, as well as some of the tomb's other surfaces, are marred by disfiguring brown spots, which were first noted by Howard Carter when he discovered the treasure-packed burial.
The nature and origin of the spots have never been fully ascertained, and they are among the technical conservation challenges presented by the tomb.
"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," Hawass said.
The conservation plan will involve a two-year research period to determine the causes of deterioration, followed by a three-year implementation plan.
"The SCA-GCI project will include scientific analysis of the problems afflicting the wall paintings," said Tim Whalen, director of the GCI. "But that is only one aspect of the project. The ultimate goal of our work with our Egyptian colleagues is to develop a long-term conservation and maintenance plan for this tomb that can serve as a model for preservation of similar sites."