This evening I had the privilege of joining a guided tour of the tomb of Queen Nefertari of Egypt (wife of the great Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II), led by Egyptologist Bethany Simpson. Bethany has been giving these tours since late last year; she has done about a dozen so far to small groups of visitors, and she will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. (Talk about an interesting job!)
The tomb is a recreation of what it would have looked like when it was built sometime around 1255 B.C., rather than how it looks now. In some cases, details from similar royal tombs were used to “fill in the blanks” on damaged images in Queen Nefertari’s tomb. (By the way, if you are interested in seeing a highly-detailed photogrammetric recreation of the tomb as it appears to visitors now, I can highly recommend Nefertari: Journey to Eternity on Steam for HTC Vive users, or the same named app on the Oculus Store for Oculus Rift users. Both are free!)
This is a prime example of how virtual reality can be used for high-quality educational purposes, and this recreated “tomb” avoids wear and tear by countless visitors to the actual tomb in Egypt:
The tomb was closed to the public in 1950 because of various problems that threatened the paintings, which are considered to be the best preserved and most eloquent decorations of any Egyptian burial site, found on almost every available surface in the tomb, including stars painted thousands of times on the ceiling of the burial chamber on a blue background to represent the sky.
After the discovery of the tomb, scientists have found many deteriorated paintings caused by water damage, bacterial growth, salt formation, and recently, the humidity of visitors’ breath. The tombs’ structure set itself to be vulnerable to destruction. In 1986, an operation to restore all the paintings within the tomb and to replace over 3,000 years worth of dust and soot with pasted paper to the fragile walls and ceilings to preserve the paintings was embarked upon by the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation and the Getty Conservation Institute; however, work did not begin on the actual restoration until 1988 which was completed in April 1992. Upon completion of the restoration work, Egyptian authorities decided to severely restrict public access to the tomb in order to preserve the delicate paintings found within. This restoration process lasted until 1990, when scientists decided to conceal the tomb from visitors. 5 years later, Egypt’s Prime Minister, Hisham Zazao declared the tomb to be reopened to visitors, 150 visitors at a time. In 2006, after 11 years, the tomb was restricted to visitors once again, except for private tours of a maximum 20 people purchasing a license for US$3,000. As per November 2017, holders of a 1000 EGP entry ticket or of a Luxor Pass can visit this tomb.
Here are a few more snapshots from my tour (note that I have deliberately turned on nametags over avatars’ heads; this is an option, and you can turn them off if you find it too distracting):
Note that you must register (for free) to get a ticket to be admitted to these tours; you cannot just go in and explore on your own whenever you want, at least, not yet! Just select a date and time from the High Fidelity Events page and get your ticket from the EventBrite website (please note that certain dates and times are already sold out).
I cannot recommend this domain (and this tour) more highly! Having a trained Egyptologist show you the highlights of Queen Nefertari’s tomb and answer questions is a truly marvelous experience! Let’s hope that we see more such events in the various social VR platforms this year (of course, there are already three separate sets of antiquities you can explore on your own in Sansar from the Voyage Live: Egypt portal experience). Have fun!