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Posted on Tuesday, April 17 - 2007

" Copyright Al-Ahram WeeklyThrongs of tourists crowd daily into the priceless tombs in the Valley of the Kings, brushing against walls and, even, tracing reliefs with sweaty fingers photos Matjaz KacicnikWhen first unearthed early in the 19th century, the royal tombs on the Theban necro..."

centerbCopyright   Al-Ahram Weekly/b/centerbrp align=

Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Throngs of tourists crowd daily into the priceless tombs in the Valley of the Kings, brushing against walls and, even, tracing reliefs with sweaty fingers photos Matjaz KacicnikWhen first unearthed early in the 19th century, the royal tombs on the Theban necropolis, although stripped of their spectacular funerary contents, were nevertheless found in a remarkable state of preservation.The splendid painted reliefs retained colours as bright as on the day they were painted. However, plunder, desecration, exploration, environmental pollution andtourism have since taken their toll, and although successive efforts have been made to protect the tombs in the Valley of the Kings the prospects are grim. The marvellous decorations are decaying more rapidly than they can be restored. Monks and hermits who hid in the royal tombs early in the Christian era were responsible for some of the damage to the decorated walls.

Evidence of their habitation can be seen in graffiti -- which today form part of the historical record -- and blackening, probably caused by efforts to light up the tomb. It was after their discovery by 19th-century European explorers, however, that the tombs suffered most lamentably -- usually from their taking 'squeezes' (mouldings on wax or wet paper) directly from the delicately painted walls, but even from total loss when they forcibly hacked out masterpieces for exhibitionabroad, sometimes destroying a substantial part of the surrounding plaster layer on the walls. Among those who first recorded the scenes and inscriptions were Ippolito Rosellini, a colleague of François Champollion, who deciphered hieroglyphics in 1822, and Emile Prisse d'Avennes, the able craftsman who arrived in Egypt under the patronage of Mohamed Ali in 1827. D'Avennes made splendid detailed copies of wall decorations, some of which had already disappeared by the time he returned to Egypt, in 1859. Tourists today pose no less of a threat. With large groups pressing into narrow corridors, the increase in humidity is a major problem. Darkened areas near some of the most striking scenes, particularly at the corners of gateways or on pillars, are probably due to the walls being touched, and there is even evidence ofscratching. ......


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