Replica of Tutankhamun’s tomb aims to divert tourists from threatened site

Creators hope £420,000 facsimile will give visitors a better understanding of tomb as they will be able to stay for longer

Workers in the tomb of Tutankhamun, in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. Photograph: Reuters

An exact replica of the tomb of Tutankhamun is set to be installed near the 3,000-year-old original, in what one of the world’s leading Egyptologists has called a revolutionary development in Egyptian archaeological conservation.

Officials hope the £420,000 project will prolong the life of the original while promoting a new model of sustainable tourism and research in a country where many pharaonic sites are under severe threat.

Tutankhamun’s tomb is one of 63 burial sites in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings. After years of visitors, some have had to close due to damage while others – such as Tutankhamun’s – are under threat, with restoration efforts likely to make the problem worse.

“The attempt to fix the tombs to make them visitable is itself now the largest long-term risk to the tombs,” said Adam Lowe, whose Spanish-based firm Factum Arte led and funded the creation of the tomb’s replica under the supervision of Egypt’s supreme council of antiquities.

The project aims to divert visitors away from the threatened original while still giving them the chance to experience what it is like inside. The process could be used to give visitors the chance to experience other sites that are too fragile ever to be opened again.

“It’s revolutionary,” said Kent Weeks, a leading Egyptologist who has been researching pharaonic sites since the 1960s. “It’s not just a way of protecting the tomb of Tutankhamun, but it’s a test case, a model that could be used to protect other sites across the country.”

The project’s leaders acknowledge that visiting a replica will sound less appealing to many than seeing the real thing. But they hope the facsimile, which is indiscernible from the original, will give visitors a better understanding of the tomb.

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