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Friday, 26 July, 2002, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Egypt rebuilds ancient tomb
Detail from the tomb of Seti
The secrets of Seti will once again be revealed
Egyptologists are working to make an exact copy of the tomb of Seti in Egypt.

Subsidence closed the original desert tomb many years ago, but using high-resolution images and 3D maps, project workers hope to build an exact replica of the tomb near Egypt's new National Museum by 2005.

Leader of the project Adam Low told BBC World Service: "The facsimile will be more complete than the tomb is now.

"We are working to show what is physically possible using the cutting edge of technology."

Squeezed walls

It aims to enable people to experience the tomb without damaging it.

Detail from the tomb of Seti
Relief works will be recast
Adam Low, of the company Factum Arte, described how the tomb was once so beautiful that it had been likened to "the Sistine chapel of Egyptian art".

"It was discovered in 1817 by Belzoni," he explained. "But within a few years sections had been hacked out and taken to museums around the world.

"More endemically, the surface had been squeezed, which was basically a process of casting.

According to Low, using a mixture of wax and vegetable fibre, art historians had attempted to obtain true reliefs. However, the mixture had the detrimental effect of also removing all of the paint.

"We took this as our first starting point as it raises lots of questions about what you do with facsimiles," Low said.

"Should the facsimile aim to show the tomb exactly like it is? Are there ways that we scan sections of Seti and bring more and more data to life?"

Dust replica

Using high quality scanning equipment, individual artefacts which are currently scattered in museums and galleries around the world, are now painstakingly being recorded and will be rebuilt using this data.


It will be an exact replica of the tomb to an accuracy of a tenth of a millimetre

Project leader, Adam Low
The end result, the project workers hope, will be a facsimile tomb which will be more complete than the one which is underground.

"Most of the digital work that has gone on focuses on screen-based display," Low explained. "But you can now take our digital data and carve it and rout it.

"It will be an exact replica of the tomb to an accuracy of a tenth of a millimetre. Including dust on the floor, the temperature and smells in the tomb; it will have exactly the same qualities."

National heritage

The tomb of Seti is often considered the largest and most lavishly decorated tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Since the 1980s it has been closed to the public because of structural problems - exacerbated by the thousands of annual visitors.

The former head of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities, Professor Gaballah ali Gaballah, said there was a real need for the replica project.

"This tomb is not visited by everybody... we do not even allow Egyptian students in and that is wrong as this is their heritage; they are entitled to it."

See also:

14 Jun 99 | Middle East
28 Mar 00 | Middle East
11 Nov 00 | Middle East
04 May 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
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