Making the facsimile of the tomb of Tutankhamun

Madrid, 2011-2012

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After recording the tomb of Tutankhamun during the first half of 2009, the team returned to Madrid and began work on the different phases of the production of the facsimile, an intricate process that can be summarized in the following steps:

  • Adjusting the high resolution photographic and 3D data
  • Routing the relief of the walls and the sarcophagus on a CNC machine
  • Preparing a silicone mould of the routed relief walls
  • Casting the silicone mould in resin
  • Preparing skins on which the colour information is printed
  • Printing the 2D and colour information
  • Colour matching with the original
  • Aligning the printed skins to the relief cast in resin
  • Reconstructing the missing fragment
  • Creating the ceiling

Routed output from the standard 3D scanning test (data from the new Metris scanner), routed in 3 dimensions at a resolution of 100 microns.

Tutankhamun/Osiris: 3D data from the Seti scanner.

Tutankhamun/Osiris: Dara from the Seti scanner routed in three dimensions.

Tutankhamun/Osiris: routed surface with colour (before colour correction).

From data processing to materialization

The images recorded in Luxor were processed and organized into files combining different layers of information.


The data recorded in the tomb was processed to make a visual map of the tomb combining 3D and colour information

Colour references obtained in the tomb were used to process the data and to compare with all printed material

The walls and sarcophagus of the Tomb of Tutankhamun were carved into sheets of polyurethane and plaster using CNC routing machines. Each sheet measured 3,60 meters high, the same as the original height of the tomb. Routing the entire surface of the burial chamber of Tutankhamun took over 6 months using two machines. Routing a 1m² panel at a resolution of 260 microns takes approximately 15 days. The routed walls were cut into of 1.5 meters sections, moulded in silicon and cast in a resin with a rigid backing structure, leaving no visible joins. The routing of the walls of the Tomb of Tutankhamun was completed on 24th March2010.

Raking light shows the surface being routed

The routed surface of a section of the tomb

Routed polyurethane sheets measured 3,60 meters high, the same as the original height of the tomb

Routing the entire surface of the burial chamber of Tutankhamun took over 6 months


The sarcophagus was also routed in sections into high-density polyurethane, joined together and cast into a resin composite resembling the original red granite. The traces of paint and colour were added by hand from photographs and notes made in the tomb.








The sarcophagus lid, made from a crystalline granite, was routed and cast in scagliola (a composite substance made from selemite, animal glue and natural pigments).







Printing and affixing colour information

The 2D colour was printed on Factum Arte´s flatbed printer

Coating PapelGel transfer material with white acrylic gesso

The PapelGel skin is an elastic, easily adhering to the surface

Stretching the material to fit the surface

The PapelGel team working on the North Wall, May 2010

By the end of the year, there were visible cracks and flaking on PapelGel´s transfer material


In the Spring of 2011, PapelGel was subcontracted to create an elastic, adhesive material that could be affixed to the walls with the relief of the tomb. By the end of the year, the elastic transfer material started to shrink and detach from the wall. The cause was identified as being a layer of plaster on the surface and after removing that layer before transfering the color on to the South wall, the problem still occurred (to a lesser degree but it also showed a tendency to detach from the surface).

During the following months, Factum Arte developed a new method for applying high-resolution printed colour to an undulating surface while creating the facsimile of Map of Bologna. Factum Arte´s skin, lighter and more flexible, produced better results than PapelGel´s tranfers material.

Resolution of the original transfer

Resolution of the same detail printed on Factum Arte"s flexible skin.

Direct comparison between transfer on the right and flex skin on the left reveals clear improvement in colour as well as in stability.

The 2D information was materialized in layers. The first step was printing the high-resolution photographs onto skins, an ultra-thin, flexible, slightly elastic support made of 2 thin layers of ink-jet ground and acrylic gesso, a specially designed support that accepts pigmented ink without spread or loss of detail. The result obtained is compared with the colour samples made in the tomb during the recording process. A second file is prepared to add tonal density and correct the hue of the colour. The printed skins are positioned and adhered to the resin reliefs using a slow-cure contact adhesive. The exact alignment between the 2D and the relief was determined by point matching cracks, sharp edges of flaking paint and micro-bacteria marks. After the alignment, the skin and the relief were sealed using a vacuum press that evenly applied pressure to remove all air, hermetically fixing the skin onto the surface.

Once the elastic material is placed in perfect register, a vacuum bag allows the adhesive to cure

Once the elastic material is placed in perfect register, a vacuum bag allows the adhesive to cure

Once the elastic material is placed in perfect register, a vacuum bag allows the adhesive to cure


The original ceiling of the tomb of Tutankhamun was left un-plastered, revealing many details of the way the tombs were carved and prepared. Lines of chisel marks, each about 1 cm wide have produced a slightly irregular pattern on the surface. There is a clear line running across the ceiling from the west wall of the antechamber to the north wall of the burial chamber, indicating that the burial chamber is actually a widening of the antechamber. The facsimile of the ceiling was carved in fiber cement in the same way as the original.


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