Ceiling of painted tomb

There are many conservation challenges at the site of El Kurru, relating to the excavated features and the management of visitors who come to the site.

There are two painted tombs surviving at El Kurru, that of Queen Qalhata, and her son King Tanwetamani, the last King of the 25th Dynasty. The tombs are decorated with both images and texts. When Resiner found the tombs in 1919 they were half filled with sand that had been washed in from the plateau. The tombs are presently covered with barrel-vaulted roofs which were erected in 1950, and which aim to imitate modern Nubian architecture. Originally, each of these tombs had a pyramid erected over them, and they were entered via a descendary. These descendary are now entered via modern steps.

Whilst Reisner cleared the tombs, and undertook some black and white photography, no detailed study of the two tombs had been undertaken until the present work at El Kurru. The painted tombs offer a particularly interesting opportunity for conservation work, as unlike many of the painted tombs in Egypt, it has not been altered by modern interventions.

The aim of the conservation work at the tombs is to create long-term stability of the painted decorations. In order to achieve this, the team has undertaken a programme of testing and analysis over several seasons. We have also created a comprehensive photographic survey of the tombs (see the page on Imaging).

Humidity monitors were placed in each of the tombs, and they traced humidity levels over the course of a year. The results showed that the tomb environment is remarkably stable.

Photographic recording of the location of a paint sample.

Paint samples have been taken from various locations in each tomb, and are in the process of being subjected to analysis including X-Ray flourescence, binding media analyses, scanning electron microscopy, and RAMAN analysis. This will create an understanding of the make-up of the pigments that were used in the tombs, and aspects of the manner in which they were applied to the walls. All of this will inform the future conservation of the tombs.

For more information, see the Publications page.