Virtual reality can help save the Ancient Egypt, the ‘Sistine Chapel’

Some of the VR-tour of Nefertari’s tomb is here to see. Credit: Curiosity Stream

A new virtual reality experience can help with the rescue of an ancient Egyptian tomb built for Queen Nefertari, whose paintings are so beautiful that it is compared to Italy’s Sistine Chapel.

Built around 3,250 years ago the favorite wife of pharaoh Ramses II (who ruled from 1279 B. c. 1213 B. C.), the Tomb of Nefertari is situated in the Valley of the Queens, near Luxor. The tomb is open for small groups of visitors, because the increase of the humidity that comes when people start can damage the paintings.

At this time, small groups of tourists are allowed in the tomb, each tourist pay an entrance fee of 1000 Egyptian pounds (about $56), said Zahi Hawass, an archaeologist and former Minister of state for Antiquities. [Photos: The Mummy of Queen Nefertari of Egypt]

Between 1986 and 1992, the Getty Institute, working with the egyptian supreme Council of Antiquities, restored the tomb, which has suffered damage from salt buildup, bacteria, and fungi. Rising damp can lead to an increase of bacteria and fungi, researchers have found. “When I started the project with the Getty, we all agree that we are not able to open the tomb to the public. But we can open up for groups that would pay a high fee,” He told Live Science, adding that each person pays 1,000 Egyptian pounds (about $56).

“A virtual tour will save you from the grave,” He said.

The capture of the grave

To create the virtual reality experience, Experius VR together with Curiosity Stream, a streaming service for documentaries.

Three people Experius VR spent two days in the tomb of Nefertari, 3D scanning, and taking thousands of overlapping images with a high resolution, said Emma Tiernon, a spokesman for the Curiosity Stream. The team worked for two months in the post-production, the turning of the 3D scan and photos in a virtual reality experience.

The finished tour can now be downloaded for free on Steam and on Viveport, although at this time you have the Vive headset to view it, Tiernon said, adding that the team hopes for the configuring of the tour, so it can be viewed on other devices.

In this VR tour, the viewer moves around the tomb by wearing the 3D headset and using the controls. If the viewer wants more information about a work of art, for example, they can almost touch the painting and a narrator will provide information.

Growing trend

Nefertari’s tomb is one of a growing number of historical sites that are stored in the virtual world. In April, Google announced its collaboration with a company called Cyark to scan historical monuments.

While the virtual reality tour of Nefertari’s tomb shows the tomb as it looks today, some try to recreate a site such as that, there thousands of years ago, such as a virtual tour of old Jerusalem to be released in 2017 by a company called Lithodomos VR.

Although it is still a lot of time to create a vivid virtual reality tour of a historic site — the tour of Nefertari’s tomb took two months — the process is expected to be faster as virtual reality and holography technologies improve, Tiernon said, adding that the Curiosity Stream plans to help in the creation of more virtual tours of historic sites.

“If virtual reality is getting better and more readily available, these tools will have the power to transcend the current production capabilities and transport audiences to places that we once thought unimaginable,” said Jorge Franzini, executive producer of Curiosity Stream.

Originally published on Live Science.


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