Recording and rematerialising the tomb of Seti I

Work surrounding the recording and reproduction of the tomb of Seti I is being carried out in a collaboration between the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation (Madrid) and the University of Basel (Switzerland), for the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The project is part of the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative, a mission to safeguard the tombs of the Theban Necropolis in Luxor´s West Bank, through the application of new recording technologies and the creation of exact facsimiles of tombs that are now either closed to the public for conservation or in need of closure to preserve them for future generations.


A team from Factum Arte took part in the recording and post-processing of one of the most breathtaking and intact tombs in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, the tomb of Seti I. The intention is to produce a 1:1 facsimile - precise to a tenth of a millimeter (100 microns), in a project similar to that of the recording and reproduction of the tomb of Tutankhamun. 

After months of planning and applying for permissions, Carlos Bayod, head of Factum Arte´s Lucida 3D scanning department, together with Aliaa Ismail who trained in Madrid for eighteen months to lead the project in Luxor, began scanning the tomb in May 2016. 

Aliaa Ismail teaching how to set up one of the Lucida 3D Scanners - the scanner will be used to scan all the walls in the tomb of Seti I and will end up in the new training centre at Stoppelaere´s House in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor

Aliaa Ismail who trained at Factum Arte in Madrid for 18 months, entering the tomb of Seti I for the first time in May 2016

Different recording technologies are being used to record the tomb at the highest resolution possible: close & long-range 3D laser scanning, high definition colour composite photography and short & mid-range photogrammetry.

Scanning with the Lucida 3D Scanner 

The walls in rooms I and J were the first to be recorded and their entire surface area scanned within a few weeks. The technology used for recording over 70% of these walls was the Lucida 3D scanner, made by Factum Arte to the design of artist & engineer Manuel Franquelo. The Lucida 3D scanner, which was specifically developed for the field of conservation, is one of the most precise 3D laser scanners available, deployed to record the tomb to obtain the highest definition data possible and generate digital 3D models of the surface of the tomb´s walls at a resolution of 100 microns (10,000 points/cm2). Two of these scanners were employed during the length of the recording, and in a normal working day of 5 hours, the team were able to record an area of about 2 m2. The scanner´s precision forces it to operate at a slower pace than other systems that are being used to record the tomb. For this reason and because of the tomb´s structure, it was decided to combine the powerful scanners with the highest-resolution photogrammetry.

Carlos Bayod and Aliaa Ismail scanning the walls in the Hall of Beauties with the Lucida 3D Scanner. Tomb of Seti I, May 2016. Image © Gabriel Scarpa

The Lucida 3D Scanner recording the walls in Hall I in the Hall of Beauties, tomb of Seti I. The scanner is able to record to a resolution of 100 microns. Image © Gabriel Scarpa

Scanning with photogrammetry

Photogrammetry is a process of obtaining 3D models through the capturing of multiple superimposed images of a given object. Once taken, these photographs are translated, through specifically designed software algorithms that stitch them together to form a three-dimensional model, making photogrammetry another great method for obtaining three-dimensional relief information of a surface. The photogrammetry process in the tomb was led by Factum Arte´s Gabriel Scarpa and Pedro Miró, and was used to record in inaccessible areas the Lucida 3D scanner was unable to operate, such as corners, the top and bottom of walls and ceilings.

Factum Arte´s Gabriel Scarpa carrying out photogrammetric recording of one of the walls in the Hall of Beauties

Carrying out Panoramic Colour Photography

Furthermore, high-definition colour composite photography was used to provide a third-dimension to relief and point-distance information. Colour composite photography was carried-out by Factum´s Gabriel Scarpa and generates another essential layer of data for the documentation and reproduction of the tomb. Composite photography is particularly important for the documentation of the tomb of Seti I, not only for adequate colour matching, but in some cases to record the entirety of the walls which had not been carved but merely drafted and therefore contained very little relief information, such as room ´´Fa´´. This multi-faceted approach exemplifies the adaptability required  for the appropriate recording of the tomb.

Gabriel Scarpa and Aliaa Ismail setting up the cameras for colour composite photography in the Sarcophagus room, Tomb of Seti I

Gabriel Scarpa carrying out the colour composite photography of one of the walls in the Sarcophagus room

Other three-dimensional recording systems have also been integrated into the tomb to work in conjunction with the Lucida 3D scanner, photogrammetry and composite photography. Amongst these, the long-range 3D scanner is capturing very precise information related to the general spatial dimensions of the different chambers. This is being done using a point-cloud - distance-calculating mechanism which when ready, will provide data that will be used to complement other high resolution recordings essential for the construction of the facsimile.

Scanning the whole tomb with the Faro Scanner 

Despite the heavy influx of tourists following the tomb´s re-opening in November 2016, Factum Arte successfully completed the tomb´s 3D surveying using a FARO Focus3D x 130 Terrestrial Laser Scanner (TLS). 

In November 2016, the tomb of Seti I was re-opened after decades being closed to the public. The image above, showing a guard taking a ticket from a tourist, is a clear example of how the recent event can affect 3D recording inside the tomb

Just one in several scanning systems used to record the different layers of data in the tomb (colour, 3D data, point distance), the Faro Scanner provided the team with information on the general geometry, spatial dimensions and architectural dynamics of the tomb. Used alongside other scanners, this recording system fills in the missing data gaps necessary for the accurate virtual and physical reproduction of the tomb. So far, around seventy different scanning processes have been used to generate a 3D model of about 800 million pixels of the interior of the tomb of Seti I.

Post-processing the data
3D renders of data gathered with the Lucida Scanner

Example of the type of scan that can be achieved with the Lucida 3D Scanner in the tomb of Seti I

  • Details of scans obtained from scanning the tomb of Seti I

3D renders from recording with Photogrammetry

Processed data from scans of a column (Column 5) recorded with photogrammetry

  • In early December, Pedro Miró began post-processing all the different datasets recorded in the tomb of Seti I in 2016


The first tests merging photogrammetry data and data recorded with the Lucida 3D scanner are taking place at the Factum studios in Madrid.

3D models from recording with the FARO Focus3D x 130 Terrestrial Laser Scanner

The tomb of Seti I - a digital 3D model generated by data obtained in the tomb with FARO Focus3D x 130  Terrestrial Laser Scanner (TLS)


  • Details of the digital 3D model generated by data obtained in the tomb with FARO Focus3D x 130 Terrestrial Laser Scanner (TLS)

  • Renders of the interior of the tomb of Seti I generated with the FARO Focus3D x 130 Scanner

The rematerialisation of the Tomb of Seti I 

Post-processing is being carried out daily to ensure the integrity and consistency of such fine granular data. In this case, the results have been incredibly encouraging from the very start. All the data obtained is being merged together to create multi-layered files of the different sections of the tomb. Tests of some of  this information are already being materialised at the Factum Arte warehouse: the CNC routing machine is working, supervised by Francesco Cigognetti and Simon Dean, and colour information is being printed by Rafa Rachewsky, Factum Arte´s digital print maker, on the digital flatbed printer. A 90 x 90 cm section of the West wall in the Hall of Beauties has been successfully routed onto a slab of polyurethane resin in very high resolution using a 3-axis CNC routing machine - the block was then cast as a plaster panel to create a thin, flexible, skin to be layered and manually fixed over the routed slab. 

The routed test of a section of the West wall in the Hall of Beauties, recorded with the Lucida 3D Scanner 

  • Rematerialisation tests carried out at the Factum Arte warehouse, of sections of the walls in the Hall of Beauties, recorded with the Lucida 3D Scanner

  • The rematerialisation tests from scans recorded with the Lucida 3D scanner were routed onto a slab of polyurethane resin in very high resolution using a 3-axis CNC routing machine - the block was then cast as a plaster panel to create a thin, flexible skin to be layered and manually fixed over the r

  • The thin, flexible skin / plaster panel cast, removed from the routed polyurethane block

Factum is excited to announce that the production of the facsimile of Room I will begin in early January 2017.


It is difficult to over-emphasise the importance that 3D and colour data capture plays in the preservation of cultural heritage. Factum Foundation provides non-contact, non-invasive data collection at the highest -possible resolution and quality to minimise the potential damage of such valuable historical sites. This not only important for research purposes, but also for the impact it has on the communities it touches. Through its valuable work, Factum Foundation not only preserves culture and history, but also helps create economic and cultural bridges between as well as forming economic and human relations between countries and local communities.

With this technology and dedication, every crack and every pore and fracture recorded will ensure the continuity of such a precious, yet precarious history.

Entrance to the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt

Example of the type of scan that can be achieved with the Lucida 3D Scanner in the tomb of Seti I

Related Videos

Spanish experts record the tomb of Seti I in Egypt

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