Recording fragments from the Tomb of Seti I

Since its discovery, another major cause of damage to the Tomb of Seti I has been the removal, and attempted removal, of sections of the tomb, some of which are now in public and private collections around the world. This includes the extensive collection of objects that were buried with the pharaoh at the time of his death. 

Factum Foundation aims to record and digitally (and physically, in the case of a facsimile) reintegrate as many fragments of the tomb as possible, in order to facilitate research and collaborations between institutions, establishing dialogues about restitution/repatriation and new questions about preservation and conservation practices. Factum Foundation is also seeking to record any existing squeezes (casts) from the tomb; wax squeezes are thought to exist at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Griffiths Institute, and in the British Museum. These objects contain vital evidence about the surface of the tomb and also help us understand the damage that can be found there. 

Since 2016, fragments have been recorded at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Louvre in Paris, the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung in Berlin, the British Museum and Sir John Soane's Museum in London, the Griffith Institute in Oxford, the Archaeological Museums in Bologna and Florence, and in a private collection. 

A fragment now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston © Factum Foundation

Fragments at the MFA Boston © Factum Foundation

Scanning at the MFA Boston © Factum Foundation

Scanning at the MFA Boston © Factum Foundation

Two fragments from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts © Factum Foundation

The surface of several fragments rematerialised at Factum Arte, tests for the exhibition 'Scanning Seti' © Factum Foundation

 The two Corridor G gate fragments  

Two of the largest fragments are currently within the collections of the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the Archaeological Museum in Florence. 

They belonged to one of the gates connecting Corridor G and were removed during the Franco-Tuscan expedition to Egypt (1828-1829) by famed archaeologists Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832) and Ippolito Rosellini (1800-1843). Both Rosellini and Champollion were shocked to see the deterioration of the condition of the tomb mere years after its discovery and wished to preserve the two scenes depicting Seti I welcomed by the goddess Hathor. She offers him her necklace, which he touches with one hand while holding her other hand, revealing a symbolic connection between King and deity. 

The two panels were carved and painted at the same time when the tomb was created, but now show two distinct conservation histories and approaches, giving them radically different appearances. Both were recorded and rematerialised as facsimiles in 2016 by Factum Foundation, for the exhibition 'Scanning Seti', and were displayed for the first time together since their removal from the tomb. 

Hathor welcomes Seti to the underworld. On the left, the fragment today in the Louvre; on the right, the fragment in the Museo Archologico di Firenze

A viewer showing the digital restoration of the Louvre panel in its original location © Factum Foundation

8000 fragments rediscovered  

Recent research in the Valley of the Kings has also expanded our knowledge of Seti's tomb. The excavations carried out near the adjacent tomb of Ramesses X (KV 18) between 1998 and 2005, by a team led by Susanne Bickel (Basel) and Dr. Florence Mauric Barberio (Institut Khéops, Paris), brought to light roughly 8,000 decorated fragments from the Tomb of Seti I. Larger fragments were also found inside Seti's tomb, where they had been stored for more than a hundred years. 

The recording of these fragments in high resolution was one of the major goals of the TNPI team in Luxor, especially during the training phase. 

Some of the fragments found in Ramses X's Tomb © Aliaa Ismail | Factum Foundation

Trainees recording one of the fragments using photogrammetry © Aliaa Ismail | Factum Foundation

Ushabtis from the tomb  

In addition to fragments of painted plaster, Factum Foundation used photogrammetry to record eleven ushabti statuettes from the tomb, now in the Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna. Ushabti, literally 'answerers', are placed in the tomb as substitutes for the deceased in the agricultural labour required of them in the afterlife. Those from Seti's tomb were modelled with a small hole in each hand and a basket of seeds on their back, while hieroglyphics on their bodies taken from the Book of the Dead would ensure their resurrection after the pharaoh's death.

Ten of them are made of painted wood, and one is made of faience, coloured with cobalt blue on a ground of lapis lazuli. 

Colour render of a wooden ushabti (left) and relief data without colour (right) © Factum Foundation

Colour data for the faience ushabti (left) and 3D surface data for the faience ushabti (right). This ushabti in 26cm tall © Factum Foundation

Screenshot from RealityCapture showing the different camera positions used to create the photogrammetry model © Factum Foundation