Original King Tutankhamun's tomb. Credit: Hajor, Wikipedia, Creative Commons
CAIRO, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Egypt says an exact replica of the tomb of Tutankhamun will be installed near the 3,000-year-old original to divert tourists away from the threatened site.
Officials said they hope the $675,000 project will prolong the life of the original tomb while maintaining sustainable tourism in a country where many ancient archaeological sites are under severe threat.
Tutankhamun's tomb, in Luxor's Valley of the Kings, is one of many burial sites deteriorating from the impact of years of tourism, while restoration efforts will likely to make the problem worse, they said.
"The attempt to fix the tombs to make them visitable is itself now the largest long-term risk to the tombs," said Adam Lowe, whose firm Factum Arte, based in Spain, led and funded the creation of the tomb's replica.
The project has been undertaken under the supervision of Egypt's supreme council of antiquities, Lowe told Britain's The Guardian newspaper.
The project is intended to protect the threatened original while still giving tourists the chance to experience what the tomb is like inside, archaeologists said, and similar efforts could allow visitors to experience other sites that are too fragile ever to be opened again.
"It's revolutionary," Egyptologist Kent Weeks, who has been researching such ancient sites since the 1960s, said. "It's not just a way of protecting the tomb of Tutankhamun, but it's a test case, a model that could be used to protect other sites across the country."
While not the real thing, the facsimile, intended to be an exact duplicate, will give visitors a better understanding of the tomb, officials said.