January 18, 2011
Tutankhamen’s Tomb To Be Closed To Visitors
Time is running out to visit the tomb of Tutankhamen, as officials with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities have announced plans to close it to tourists by the end of the year.
The tomb, which was discovered some 89 years ago, has been damaged as a result of the many visitors it has received, particularly over the past three decades, according to a Monday report in the Australian newspaper The Sunday Times. Instead, visitors will be directed to a soon-to-be-created replica of the tomb in Luxor, while the original will be closed down for preservation purposes.
"There's no alternative. Closing the tombs is the only way to preserve them," Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt's antiquities chief, told The Sunday Times. "People's respiration, the humidity they bring into the tombs, their sweat, the fact that they use flashes when taking pictures--all this damages the tombs."
"If I don't build this 'Valley of the Replicas', the originals will be destroyed in less than 100 years," Dr. Hawass added. "That would be a disaster for history."
The replica of Tutankhamen's tomb should be ready within a year's time, Dr. Hawass said. Currently, the Supreme Council of Antiquities is attempting to raise funds from private donors for the project, which according to The Sunday Times will cost approximately $10 million.
According to Mike Pitts, Editor of British Archaeology, it was only a matter of time before this happened.
"There can be no disputing the problem," Pitts said in an article written for the Guardian on Monday, noting that once Howard Carter discovered the tomb in 1922, "It was recognized immediately that the sterile environment had been compromised: Carter's chemist found 'air-infections' the day after they broke in. Those were nothing, however, compared with the humidity, fungi and dust wafted through the tomb by a thousand or more visitors a day."
"Cue staining, crumbling and erosion of the paint. Short of sand-blasting it, you would be hard pushed to devise a more efficient mechanism for destroying the 3,300-year-old art," he said, adding that the problem was "affects ancient sites around the world"¦ Heritage tourism may be good for economies but, badly managed, it harms the heritage. It's right that our access should be controlled."
Pitts added that advances in technology should make the replica of Tutankhamen's tomb "visually indistinguishable from the original; and you can see it with better lighting and access."
"Indeed, the replication process is so precise, it brings new insights to the original, helping academics and tour guides alike. No, it's not the real tomb. But it is a real facsimile, and when you visit you will become part of a cutting-edge research project," he added.
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