King Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh who ruled more than 3,000 years ago. He died at a very young age, and his tomb contained a huge collection of unequaled treasures; it was crammed with every possible object a pharaoh might need in the afterlife.
Since the discovery of King Tut’s remarkable tomb in 1922, many theories have been proposed about how he died. What mysteries lay hidden behind the elaborate yet uncompleted tomb?
Now a new question has emerged. Why did the Egyptians have to rush the burial and seal the king into his tomb even though the painted wall in his burial chamber wasn’t dry enough?
Painted walls in King Tut's burial chamber
In recent research, led by Ralph Mitchell, Research Professor, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, some interesting facts about King Tut’s hasty burial were revealed.
For many years, King Tut’s tomb has suffered from peeling paint and cracking walls, along with brown splotches everywhere on the walls. Mitchell was asked to examine and find out more about these spots and their potential threat to the tomb’s decorated walls. It wasn't clear at that point whether tourists were making them worse, for example, and answers were needed.
Wall painting from Tutankhamun's tomb
Mitchell and his team worked with chemists from Getty Conservation Institute, a research organization that works to preserve cultural heritage through science. They used molecular analysis and DNA sequencing to assess the dark blotches, which have remained unchanged for the past 89 years.
Surprisingly, no living organisms have been connected with the spots; instead melanin, a by-product of the metabolism of fungi, was found. This indicates that the food and incense left inside the tomb favored microbial growth on the walls until the tomb completely dried out. It also hints that perhaps the young king was buried in rush.
Golden funeral mask of king Tutankhamun
“King Tutankhamen died young, and we think that the tomb was prepared in a hurry. We're guessing that the painted wall was not dry when the tomb was sealed,” explained Professor Mitchell.
As of today, the team hasn’t been able to identify the mysterious ancient organism that may have caused the spots, however.
“There is little to be done about the 3000-year-old marks because the unique damage has already been done and should be left alone... [T]his is part of the whole mystique of the tomb,” added Mitchell.