Scan a Tomb

8 Apr, 2004 By: Cadalyst Staff

Ancient monuments weren't built to withstand the throngs of tourists drawn to visit them today. This problem is particularly acute in Egypt's Valley of the Kings because the Pharoahs' tombs server a specific religious function and were never intended to receive visitors. In the late 1980s, the tomb of Seti I, the largest and most lavishly decorated of all the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, was closed to the public because of structural problems.

A 3D rendering of a scarab beetle from the burial chamber of Seti 1.

Delcam's ArtCAM software played an essential part in a project to produce a high-fidelity facsimile of part of the burial chamber in the tomb of Seti 1 to make its beauty accessible once again. The exercise, undertaken by Factum Arte with the support of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, and archaeologist Michael Mallinson, was the first stage of a much larger plan to create a range of facsimiles.

The Process
First, the surface of the tomb was scanned using a specially adapted short-range REVERSA laser scanner and a ModelMaker X system, both manufactured by 3D Scanners ( Each square meter of the tomb's surface is represented by 100 million points of information, giving a total of more than 200 billion points for the whole tomb.

Data from the scanner was then loaded into Delcam's ArtCAM. This software was used to calculate toolpaths for machining a series of positive tiles into fine-grain Cibafoam composite board. Cutting directly from the scanned information in this way eliminated the need to spend time processing the data.

Routing is a particularly important stage because it provides the base for all subsequent operations. Each tile was first roughed out and then a final cut made with a 0.1 mm cutting tool with a stepover of 0.01 mm. At this resolution, every aspect of the surface is visible, from tiny paintbrush marks to the coarse granules in the black, green, and blue pigments.

Silicon molds were then cast from the routed panels, and the final panels themselves cast in the correct material from these molds. Color data from the original tomb was then aligned to the physical tiles in Photoshop and the panels digitally printed. After some hand finishing, the individual tiles were assembled into the finished facsimile.

Delcam Inc.

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