How Sweat and Breath From Tourists Nearly Destroyed King Tut’s Tomb

But Egyptian authorities and conservationists may have technical solution to moisture crisis.

New Investigation of King Tut's Tomb
(Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

The famed tomb of King Tut was almost destroyed by an enemy more insidious than the  Hittites.

Moisture from the humidity and carbon dioxide brought inside of the tomb by the throngs of tourists that regularly sweat and breathe during their visits.

“Visitors increase relative humidity, elevate carbon dioxide levels, and along with natural ventilation into the tomb, promote the entry of fine airborne particles,” wrote researchers in a 2018 paper in Studies in Conservation.

Dust brought it from tourist is also a big issue because it “encourages moisture uptake, damaging paint layers, and can cement itself to the surfaces, making it difficult to remove,” the authors wrote.

Gianfranco Martinoni, an architect who has restored massive fresco paintings, told the International Herald Tribune in 2000 that “the moisture emitted by human bodies and breathing combines with airborne dust and other pollutants to produce an acidic chemical reaction that is literally eating into the surface of the paintings.”

Conservators from Getty partnered with Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities to complete nearly 10 years worth of restorations and work on King Tut’s tomb that is believed will keep it safe from damage.

In an attempt to curb the decay, conservators created a duplicate copy of King Tut’s tomb and set up shop about a mile away from the real tomb. Visitors are able to see an exact replica, down to the paint strokes on the walls, without doing any damage to the original location.

For a longer term solution, Conservators have also installed a new machine that “supplies filtered ‘clean’ air at the south end of the visitor platform and then extracts the ‘dirty’ air at the north end, thus enveloping the visitors in the antechamber and limiting spread of the dirty air into the burial chamber.”.

According to Atlas Obscura, the Getty team recommends decreasing and limiting the number of visitors in King Tut’s tomb at any given time and limiting the amount of time in which they visit.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.