TUTANKHAMEN’S TWO TOMBS: REPLICA CREATION AND THE PRESERVATION OF OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Keywords: Cultural Heritage, Conservation, Preservation, 3D Digital Documentation, Recording, Replicas
Abstract. There are two tombs of Tutankhamen both located in Luxor, Egypt: one in the Valley of the Kings, excavated into the Theban bedrock and decorated with wall paintings, dating from 1323 BCE; the other, installed 3 km away, opened in April 2014 and is considered to be an ‘exact facsimile’ of the original tomb. Tutankhamen’s tomb is just one example of a cultural heritage site that has been replicated. This list is steadily growing as replicas are finding renewed favour fuelled by technological advancements in three-dimensional recording, capture and fabrication which has enabled the production of highly accurate replicas in both physical and virtual form. Comparisons drawn between the two tombs of Tutankhamen—the original and the replica—aim to highlight the differing approaches of parallel preservation projects and intends to prompt questions surrounding the commissioning and use of replicas in the cultural heritage field and the growing role that 3D digital technology is playing in the preservation/conservation sector. Sites and cultural heritage organization are scrambling to be part of the 3D digital revolution. But, has the transition to 3D and the revival in replicas happened too quickly and at the expense of a site’s other conservation needs? Is technology being used in the service of conservation and preservation or is it the other way around? How can those working with heritage balance the benefit of 3D technology with the overall conservation needs for a site? Using the example of Tutankhamen’s two tombs this paper aims to provoke discussion on these topics.