2021 – Conservation of wall paintings in a Roman tomb house

In 2018, the directors of the Egyptian Museum Cairo, Sabah Abdel-Razek, and the Lower Saxony State Museum Hanover, Katja Lembke, signed a Memorandum of Understanding “to encourage visits for the purpose of engaging in cooperative activities, to support the exchange of scientific staff (e.g. curators), to support the exchange of museum staff (e.g. conservators), to develop joint research activities and to promote joint exhibition projects”.

In addition to the mutual visit of employees, the current focus is on cooperation in the field of restoration. Already in 2019, restorers from the Egyptian Museum collaborated on a cultural preservation project in Tuna el-Gebel funded by the German Foreign Office.

Figure: Checking the condition of the plaster and documenting this by mapping

The project of restoring the wall paintings in tomb house GB 33 (M 20/SE) continued in 2021 with funding from the same authority by their Cultural Preservation Programme. The task was to stabilize weak mud plasters, fine lime wash layers and to fill hollow spaces between detached Roman lime plasters and the adobe masonry.

Figure: Rendering of plaster edges

Figure: Paint layer consolidation

Members of the team were Heike Pfund, Alexandra Winkels, Björn Bühler, Tamer Mohammed Maher, and Hisham el-Sheik supported by the inspectors for restoration of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, Saber Mohammed and Mustafa Mohammed Gamal.

Figure: Stabilizing loose lime plaster by rendering edges

On the ground floor of the main tomb and in the two adjacent chambers, the technique of plaster and painting differs significantly from the painted plaster of the first floor. The ground floor decorations are the older ones, painted with water sensitive paint on thin lime washes, which were applied to a mud plaster. Motives refer to the Egyptian funerary tradition, whereas the rooms on the first floor were painted in a fresco technique on lime plaster, and referring to the Roman iconography, the decoration imitates an opus sectile made of precious stones.

Figure: Securing mud plaster by stabilizing plaster edges

The conservation strategy of the Field- and Summer-School-Programmes was continued and the methods and materials, which had been developed specifically for Tuna el-Gebel, were consistently applied. A report about this programme and a list of recipes and materials can be found under the tab “Conservation” on this website.

Figure: Conservators and inspectors for restoration are mixing the materials together

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