Environment: Egypt Battles a Sleeping Devil

Salt damage threatens the monuments of the pharaohs

The striking images are among the finest surviving examples of ancient Egyptian art. They depict the passage into the next life of a slim young woman clad in a diaphanous gown, her toenails polished white, her eyes outlined with kohl, her every need seen to by the servants and deities surrounding her. The accompanying inscriptions leave no doubt about her identity: Queen Nefertari, the favorite wife of Ramses II, Egypt's greatest pharaoh.

Covering the ceilings and walls of the queen's tomb in the royal necropolis -- a honeycomb of chambers carved into the limestone mountains at Thebes -- the paintings have...

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