Egyptian authorities recently announced that a replica of Tutankhamun’s tomb will be erected near the Luxor home of Howard Carter, where it will stay until the completion of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza in 2015. Although the real tomb (KV62) will remain open to the public for the time being, the officials hope that the replica will divert tourists away from the original and allow conservators to conduct much-needed repairs to the tomb’s crumbling walls.
Work on the replica tomb began in 2009 and was completed in October 2012 thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and the Madrid-based firm Factum Arte, which specialises in the production of facsimiles for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage. The firm used revolutionary 3D scanning techniques to produce an exact facsimile of the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb down to the microscopic level. But will tourists forego a visit to the real tomb in favour of a replica?
Not everyone is convinced. In his article for The Telegraph, Nick Trend argues that “one of the strongest pulls for the traveller is the quest to see and experience ‘the real thing’: the buildings, artefacts and works of art that are either famous in their own right or are part of the draw of a particular place”. And who can blame him? Just think of the masses of people that have descended upon Angkor Wat after seeing it in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or made a pilgrimage to Petra, a site made famous in the classic 1989 film Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade? There’s no doubt that many of us would seize the opportunity to follow in these adventurers’ footsteps and see these sites with our own eyes. The question is, how many of us would be content to settle for a faithful replica?
In the case of Tutankhamun’s tomb, I would personally prefer to visit a replica of the tomb than contribute to the real tomb’s destruction. After all, I was extremely happy that I had the chance to admire the near-perfect replicas of the king’s tomb treasures at an exhibition in Brussels a few years ago, especially since I have no idea whether I’ll ever get to see the originals in Egypt, and I’d gladly pay to see a replica if that money went towards preserving the site. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t welcome the chance to step inside KV62 and try to imagine how Howard Carter felt when he first set eyes on the beautiful wall paintings that adorn the king’s tomb. But what good would it do if KV62 crumbled into dust as a result of our untamed curiosity?
What are your thoughts on this matter? Would you visit a replica of an endangered heritage site?