Egypt unveils exact replica of Tutankhamun's tomb made with a 3D printer

Media Editor

The most famous of all Egyptian burial sites, Tutankhamun’s tomb, has been replicated with a 3D exact facsimile in a project led by a British artist in order to protect the original site from the ravages of mass tourism.

Adam Lowe’s company Factum Arte used digital photography, 3D laser scanning and printers to precisely recreate the murals on the walls of the burial chamber, depicting scenes from the young pharaoh’s journey to the afterlife.

The replica tomb was so accurate that some Tutankhamun experts among the Egyptologists and dignitaries burst into tears while attending the opening in Luxor today.

“We are not talking virtual reality, it is a physical reality,” Mr Lowe told The Independent from Egypt. “To have an emotional response to something you know to be a copy is an extraordinary moment.”

Mr Lowe said the replica was of crucial importance to the preservation of the original 3,245-year-old burial chamber, which receives up to 1,000 visitors a day in a space 60m square. Factum Arte is working on similar projects to replicate the tombs of Queen Nefertari, regarded as the most beautiful Egyptian burial chamber, and Seti I, which is seen by archaeologists as the most important. Both sites are already closed to tourists. These tombs, said Mr Lowe, “were built to last for eternity but they weren’t built to be visited".

The Tutankhamun replica is situated outside the entrance of the Valley of the Kings alongside the house of British explorer Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb in 1922. Factum Arte, which is based in Madrid, has worked with the Egyptian architect Tarek Waly to build the limestone replica, using high-resolution digital recording to reproduce the famous murals.

The remarkable five-year project has been filmed for a special documentary for a BBC Travel Show called A New Tomb for Tutankhamun.

The replica tomb was created off site, with every little detail matched to the original (BBC) The replica tomb was created off site, with every little detail matched to the original (BBC) The tomb paintings, which contain various scenes including the teenage Pharaoh in the form of Osiris and being greeted by the Goddess Nut ahead of his boat journey into the afterlife, are recreated not as they were at the time of burial but in the time-ravaged form when they were photographed in 2009.

The documentary’s producer Joanne Whalley said the facsimile replicated the cracks and undulations that have emerged during the passage of more than 3,000 years. “The tomb walls of the original are very cracked and undulating so the 3D [process] captured the cracks and dips of the surface,” she said.

The quality of work at the tomb is “astonishing”, said the show’s presenter, Rajan Datar. “When they recorded the information from the original tomb they recorded 100 million points of information per square metre with a laser scanner. That is state-of-the-art stuff.”

He said that the project had a very serious purpose. “This is the future of cultural tourism,” he said. “During the past hundred years many antiquities have been exposed to too much human presence and unless that is restricted they are going to collapse completely. The mindset has to change amongst tourists.”

He predicted that tight restrictions would be introduced on visits to the original Tutankhamun’s tomb.

There are fears in the Egyptian tourist industry that such measures could damage a sector that has suffered from the country’s recent political instability.

“There’s nervousness in the short term because tourism to Luxor and the whole of Egypt is massively down. They want a slowly introduced policy,” said Datar. “Local guides were worried about [potential] copies in Japan and America, and whether people would come to Egypt at all. But this has to happen.”

Mr Lowe said the facsimile tomb was a much needed “good news story” for Egypt. But he said tourism would return and visitor numbers to Luxor are expected to double in five years. “The Valley of the Kings is really at its limit,” he said.

Unlike the original chamber, the replica contains detailed information for visitors on the “biography” of the site. “The real tomb is a sacred place and does not allow museum activities,” said Lowe.

Factum Arte’s techniques were previously used to create a facsimile of Veronese’s The Wedding at Cana, plundered from Italy by Napoleon’s troops in 1797 and hanging in the Louvre. The replica in Venice has had rave reviews.

“A New Tomb for Tutankhamun: A Travel Show Special” will be shown on BBC2 on Friday on 7.20am and across the BBC News Channel this weekend.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones