Tut Move Designed to Save Mummy

Steven Stanek in Luxor, Egypt
for National Geographic News
November 4, 2007

The mummy of the famed boy pharaoh Tutankhamun went on public display for the first time today, when he was moved from his sarcophagus to a high-tech glass case in the antechamber of his tomb near Luxor. (Read the full story on the move and Tut's enduring mystique.)

The transfer is expected to draw thousands of visitors fascinated by the 3,000-year-old body—which fewer than a hundred people have ever seen in person until now—generating needed funds for the preservation of Egyptian antiquities.

(See video and photos of the transfer.)

But experts said the move serves an equally important purpose: preserving the remains, which have deteriorated rapidly from heat and humidity since the opening of Tut's tomb 85 years ago today.

The damage is so bad that if the mummy had remained in its original location, it may have disintegrated within decades.

"The mummy is in danger and needs some immediate protection," said Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Hawass led a team that examined the mummy in 2005 using a CT scanner—the first time the mummy was removed from its tomb in the Valley of the Kings in almost 80 years.

At that time the archaeologist noticed a significant decline in Tut's condition.

"In less than 50 years the mummy could [have been] completely deteriorated" if it had been left in its sarcophagus, said Hawass, who is also an explorer-in-residence with the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.

The body's new resting place is one of the most advanced display cases in the world. It can precisely control humidity and airflow, and it will be filled with a nitrogen-rich mixture deadly to known bacteria and mold.

Similar cases are used to preserve one of the four existing copies of the Magna Carta, an original copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and the family bible of former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.

Mummy in Danger

Continued on Next Page >>


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