Recording & rematerialising the Sarcophagus of Seti I and all the the tomb's scattered elements
Sir John Soane Museum, London - 2016

Recording and rematerialising the Sarcophagus of Seti I
The project

The photogrammetric recording of the sarcophagus of Seti I in Sir John Soane’s Museum in London was carried out between the 14th and the 19th March 2016 by Pedro Miró, Manuel Franquelo and Ferdinand Saumarez-Smith from the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation. This initiative marks the first stage of the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative: a collaboration between the Ministry of Antiquities (Egypt), Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation (Spain), and the University of Basel (Switzerland), with contribution from Autodesk and Capturing Reality, and financial support by donation to the Factum Foundation. This multi-year outreach program, launched in 2014, is an ambitious approach to preserve the tombs of the Theban Necropolis in the Valley of the Kings, designed to simultaneously promote a spread of knowledge and research. 

Manuel Franquelo and Pedro Miró from Factum Arte recording the sarcophagus of Seti I at the Sir John Soane´s Museum

The 16th of October 2017 will mark the 200th anniversary of Giovanni Battista Belzoni’s discovery of the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings - one of the largest, most lavishly decorated and important tombs in the Valley. In the years following its discovery, sections of the decoration were removed and there are now hundreds of fragments in museums and collections around the world. The largest are in the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the Archaeological Museum in Florence. There are also a large number of smaller fragments that were found in the rubble outside the tomb by a team from the University of Basel. Among these is the tomb of Seti I, brought to London, exhibited at the Egyptian Halls on Piccadilly and sold to Sir John Soane in 1824, after it was rejected by the British Museum. The intention is to record and re-integrate all the fragments to make the facsimile more complete than the original tomb.

The 3D scanning of the Sarcophagus in Sir John Soane’s Museum marked the start of the work to record all the fragments.

The interior of the sarcophagus of Seti I

Recording with photogrammetry

The first tests to make a 3D recording of the white alabaster sarcophagus took place in 2001 during a conference on Factum Arte’s work in the tomb of Seti I. But the translucent nature of the material meant that the data was noisy and meaningless. Fifteen years later, the Factum Foundation used photogrammetry to record the sarcophagus at a resolution of about one tenth of a millimeter.

Photogrammetry is a process which extracts three-dimensional data from two-dimensional images using feature mapping and a range of algorithms. In order to make a 3D model, a camera takes multiple overlapping images of the surface of an object. The images can then be processed to create a 3D model, with colour information, for various applications. Photogrammetry employs lightweight professional DSLR cameras to produce results comparable to scanning systems at a fraction of the cost, and is a non- contact, non-intrusive method of recording. 

  • Manuel Franquelo recording the Seti I sarcophagus - it took the team two days to carry out photogrammetric recording of the entire tomb

Section of the interior of the sarcophagus being recorded with photogrammetry

Working in the confined space of the crypt in Sir John Soane’s museum, over 4,500 images were taken with a Canon 5DSR (50 megapixel) over a five-day period. The team employed a motorised rig onto which the camera was mounted, with two flashes mounted at a 45º angle to spread an even light on the exterior of the surface. The interior of the sarcophagus was difficult to reach, and was recorded using a hand-held setup and a blue laser system that minimises the diffraction of the beam on the translucent alabaster surface (this is crucial for recording sharp data).

Sample data was processed on-site and completed back in Factum Arte’s workshops in Madrid.
These images have now been stitched together, in collaboration with Autodesk and Capturing Reality, to form a 3D model that will facilitate an in-depth study of the surface and shape of the sarcophagus. 

3D Render of the Seti I sarcophagus

The plan is to make a facsimile of the sarcophagus that will eventually be installed in the facsimile of the tomb at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. The data will also be used to digitally restore the sarcophagus to the way it looked at the time it entered Soane’s collection. Joseph Gandy’s watercolours show it as a white alabaster form with blue inlay, but time, the English climate, and attempts to conserve it have changed its appearance. This collaboration demonstrates the close relationship that has been developed between the museum and the Factum Foundation. The data gathered in the recording will be useful for academics studying, amongst other things, the texts inscribed in hieroglyphics on the surface. It has also been processed into a 3D model, which will join a series of Soane’s architectural models, as a part of the ‘Digital Soane’ project to create a publicly-accessible interactive website. This project aims to demonstrate that 3D scanning and 3D printing are C21st technologies that can assist in the preservation of great works of art, without inflicting damage on the original object.

Joseph Gandy´s watercolours show the sarcophagus as a white alabaster form with blue inlay

Poor conservation and climate has changed sarcophagus´ appearance over time

 
The rematerialisation process

Materialisation tests are being carried out at the Factum Arte warehouse in Madrid. A 1:1 scale section of the tomb was milled in alabaster with the CNC Miller, inscriptions painted by Silvia Alvarez using blue watercolour paint.

CNC Miller routing a 1:1 section of the sarcophagus of Seti I

Adam Lowe checking the routed test

Material test of a section of the sarcophagus of Seti I, routed in Alabaster, painted in watercolour 

Material test of a section of the sarcophagus of Seti I, routed in Alabaster, painted in watercolour (detail)

The facsimile of the sarcophagus will take pride of place in the full facsimile of Seti I’s tomb which will be installed near the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. The aim will be to make an authentic object that reveals the history of the sarcophagus and what has happened since its arrival at Sir John Soane’s Museum. A digital restoration of the sarcophagus will be informed by the study and analysis of the data in conjunction with source material, including J. M. Gandy’s watercolours of the sarcophagus, painted when it arrived in London. During this process, the condition of the original ‘Egyptian blue’ pigment used to pick out the hieroglyphics (now decayed and darkened) will be addressed and the fragments of the lid will be re-assembled. One approach will be to use the watercolours to reconstruct the paintwork and show the condition of the alabaster and carved decoration when purchased by Sir John Soane in 1824. The facsimile of the sarcophagus will take pride of place in the full facsimile of Seti I’s tomb which will be installed near the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. The aim will be to make an authentic object that reveals the history of the sarcophagus and what has happened since its arrival at Sir John Soane’s Museum.

The data gathered in the recording will be useful for academics studying, amongst other things, the texts inscribed in hieroglyphics on the surface. The data will also be processed into a 3D model, which will join a series of Soane’s architectural models, 3D recorded using photogrammetry as a part of the ‘Digital Soane’ project to create a publicly-accessible interactive website to be launched in late 2016. This project aims to demonstrate that 3D scanning and 3D printing are 21st century technologies that can assist in the preservation of great works of art, without inflicting damage.

This will offer the unique opportunity to appreciate and understand the tomb in a state that is, in a way, more complete than the original. This is one of the great potentials that facsimiles can offer to visitors: the chance to see an important monument with additional layers of information that can add to and improve the experience.

This potential has already been demonstrated by the facsimile of the Tomb of Tutankhamun.

Recording and rematerialising the missing fragments of the Tomb of Seti I

So far, a series of eight fragments, taken from the tomb of Seti I since its discovery by Giovanni Battista Belzoni on the 16th October 1817, have been recorded with the Lucida 3D Scanner in September 2016 by Factum´s head of 3D Scanning, Carlos Bayod. The elements, which currently find themselves at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, were identified and scanned at very high-resolution (100 microns) for their eventual rematerialisation and re-integration into the future, full facsimile of the entire tomb. This phase in the highly ambitious Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative will continue with the highest-resolution 3D & colour recording and rematerialisation of many other, similar fragments. In 2017, the team will scan fragments at the British Museum (London) and in various other museums in Florence and Paris.

  • Fragment of wall decoration: Fragment (066x760 mm.) of brightly painted, finely grained limestone preserves part of a hieroglyphic inscription from the tomb of Seti I. The glyphs, arranged vertically, are painted in green, black and red on dull yellow ground
  • Portion of face of Seti I (890x120 mm.); face in deep red; details in black; light colored and fine-grained stone
  • This fragment (303x950 mm.) of brightly painted, finely grained limestone preserves part of a figure from the tomb of Seti I. The fragment shows part of the torso of the king or a god, painted red, wearing a multi-colored belt, against a yellow background
  • This fragment (155x143 mm.) of brightly painted, finely grained limestone preserves part of a hieroglyphic inscription from the tomb of Seti I. The glyphs, arranged vertically, are painted in green, black and red on dull yellow ground

Carlos Bayod (Factum Arte), scanning a fragment with the Lucida 3D Scanner in September 2016 at the Boston MFA 

  • Shelves with the eight missing fragments recorded at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
  • Fragment of cavetto cornice: This fragment (152x222 mm.) of brightly painted, finely grained limestone preserves part of a cavetto cornice from the tomb of Seti I. The conventional ornament is painted in white, olive, blue-green, and dull red, with black lines for borders
  • Fragment of a head of a King: This fragment (187x178 mm) of brightly painted, finely grained limestone preserves part of a figure of the king, faing right, from the tomb of Seti I. The fragment shows a portion of the king?s face, his ear, and part of his nemes headdress. The skin is painted red, wit

3D renders of the eight fragments scanned with the Lucida Scanner 

Fragment tests, routed on the CNC milling machine, materialised at the Factum Arte warehouse 

  • Rematerialised fragment tests of the elements recorded with the Lucida 3D Scanner by Carlos Bayod at the Boston MFA in September 2016
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