2009

Ongoing

The Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative

The Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative (TNPI) is a joint effort between the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Preservation, the University of Basel, and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Its main objectives are straightforward yet comprehensive:

  1. Create highly detailed digital records of tombs in the Valley of the Kings. This pioneering work started with a focus on Tutankhamun and Seti I's tombs. The plans are now to expand to other tombs. These records are so accurate that they could be used to produce identical facsimiles, indistinguishable from the originals when viewed in a normal museum setting;
  2. Record and include fragmented pieces and tomb contents currently located in Egypt or elsewhere;
  3. Facilitate the transfer of digital recording skills and technology to the local community through integrated training and educational programs. This empowers them to undertake their preservation projects and recordings in the future, fostering a sense of ownership and providing new employment opportunities.
  4. Ensure that the local community benefits financially from preserving cultural heritage by acquiring new skills and gaining employment.
  5. Make digital documentation of the tombs widely accessible for educational purposes worldwide. Factum Foundation ensures, however, that the copyright over the recorded data belongs to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities for any future commercial use.

Currently, interested individuals, including conservators, heritage professionals, academics, and the general public, can access the recordings of Tutankhamun's Burial Chamber and Seti I's entire tomb. This allows them to explore these extraordinary remnants of our shared history in unparalleled detail.

The recordings serve as a valuable tool to monitor the condition of the tombs, providing objective evidence of changes caused by tourism and conservation efforts. Additionally, they may include digitised fragments no longer present on-site or historical photographic evidence, contributing to research and offering chances for dialogue between institutions.

The TNPI team. Left to right: Ashraf Gad (the Inspector from the Ministry of Antiquities), Mahmoud Abdellah, Abdo Ghada, Mahmoud Salem, Mina Fahim Razik, Amany Hassan, Aliaa Ismail, Hagar Ahmed. Mosa el-Sayed is missing from the photo.

A short history of the TNPI’s work in Egypt

2001: Pilot recordings in the Tomb of Seti I

Factum Arte used the Seti Scanner, a prototype of the later Lucida 3D Scanner, to scan the East Wall of the Sarcophagus Room (Room K). This breakthrough showed the immense potential of high-resolution 3D surface scanning for preserving cultural heritage. Interestingly, this development took place around the same time as the opening of the reconstructed Altamira cave to the public. The term 'high-resolution' is no exaggeration, as the 2001 Seti Scanner data stands up well against the 2019 data recorded using the Lucida 3D Scanner.

The comparison can be seen on Factum's online browser of Room K's East Wall.

The Seti Scanner data recorded in 2001 (left) compares favourably to the Lucida 3D Scanner recorded in 2019 (right)

2004: Facsimile of the Tomb of Thutmosis III

The interest in facsimiles was quickly demonstrated when the Tomb of Thutmosis III's facsimile was exhibited as part of 'The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt' at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. This facsimile later attracted record-breaking numbers of visitors (over 97,000) to the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid for the exhibition 'Las Horas Oscuras del Sol' in 2004.

2009-2014: Recording and facsimile of the Burial Chamber of Tutankhamun

In 2009, the non-for-profit Factum Foundation took over Factum Arte's cultural heritage work and focused on recording the Tomb of Tutankhamun. This led to the creation of the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative (TNPI) in collaboration with Egyptologists Erik Hornung from the University of Basel and Theodor Abt from the Society of Friends of the Royal Tombs in Egypt. TNPI made the tomb's data public in partnership with the Ministry of Antiquities, allowing scholars and conservators to monitor its condition and use the data for academic research and potential discoveries.

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE VIEWERS

After being exhibited in Luxor in 2012, the facsimile of the burial chamber was relocated to an underground building near Carter's House, at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. Since 2014, it has been open for public visitation. The facsimile faithfully reproduces the original tomb's burial chamber, while the antechamber and annexe, though made with the same materials and proportions, serve as exhibition spaces. In this permanent exhibition, curated by Adam Lowe, Jaromir Malek, and Nicholas Reeves, visitors can learn about the deterioration of the original tomb since its discovery and the impact of mass tourism on its condition. Additionally, a recreation of the missing section of the South Wall of the burial chamber, which disappeared after the tomb's discovery in 1922, is also on display.

‘The gift of the facsimile is a metaphor for the relationship between Europe and Egypt – the skills and technology that have been developed in Europe to create the facsimile are going to be transferred to Egypt where the local workers will be trained and those very skills and technology will become Egyptian.’

Baroness Ashton, EU High Representative, during her visit to the facsimile on November 14th, 2012

2016: Fully Egyptian team continues the recording of Seti I

In 2016, the TNPI began the final stages of recording the tomb of Seti I and provided training to local Egyptian operators, led by Aliaa Ismail. The recordings also included painted fragments discovered by the University of Basel, with contributions from Susanne Bickel and Florence Mauric-Baberio. In October 2017, the TNPI showcased the first facsimiles created using the data collected since 2001 as part of the exhibition 'Scanning Seti: The Regeneration of a Pharaonic Tomb' at the Antikenmuseum in Basel. This exhibition coincided with the tomb's bicentenary discovery and featured full-scale facsimiles of Rooms I and J, as well as a facsimile of Seti's sarcophagus, which resides in the Sir John Soane's Museum in London and was recorded in 2016.

The TNPI team during the recording of the Tomb of Seti I and its fragments © Factum Foundation

 

The completed facsimile of the Tomb of Seti, on display at the exhibition 'Scanning Seti' at the Antikenmuseum Basel © Factum Foundation

2017: Restoration of Hassan Fathy's Stoppeläere House

Also in 2017, the restoration of Hassan Fathy's Stoppelaëre House was completed. This iconic example of Egyptian mid-20th-century vernacular modernism became the TNPI's base in Luxor. A new 3D Scanning, Training, and Archiving Centre was established there to train Egyptian digital cultural heritage specialists. Factum Foundation funded the restoration in exchange for the use of the house for ten years.

Restoring Hassan Fathy's Stoppelaëre House © Factum Foundation

The restored dome © Factum Foundation

The installation of the TNPI at the newly restored Stoppelaëre House © Factum Foundation

2019-2022: Completing the recording of Seti I

In 2019, after the restoration, the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative team moved into Stoppelaëre House. The Initiative received the official patronage of the Egyptian National Commission for UNESCO. The TNPI team, with occasional support from Factum Foundation operators, continued their work on recording the tomb of Seti I; after a brief stop in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the TNPI team was the first one to resume work in the Valley of the Kings in July 2020, and completed the project in 2022.

Since 2022: Working in the Valley of the Kings

Since 2022, the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative has been working on new developments and applications for the high-resolution data recorded in the Valley of the Kings, and looking into recording more tombs. It has since collaborated with institutions such as ARCE – American Research Center in Egypt, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the US Embassy in Cairo.

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