Thutmose III was one of Ancient Egypt’s greatest Pharaohs. Ruling during the Eighteenth Dynasty, from 1479 to 1426 BCE, he belongs to the civilisations most glorious era and was noted for securing its borders against its African and Asian enemies.
The celebrated ancient ruler and his final resting place were immortalised in this exhibition based on a concept by the Egyptologist Dr Erik Hornung (professor emeritus at the University of Basel) and Dr Theodor Abt (president of the Friends of the Royal Tombs of Egypt, Zurich). Originally titled ‘Las Horas Oscuras Del Sol’ and developed by Factum Arte for the Museo Arquelógico Nacional in Madrid, In Pharaos Grab was displayed at the Antikenmuseum in Basel in 2006 following a worldwide tour the previous year covering much of Europe and the USA. The centrepiece of the exhibition was an exact replica of the burial chamber of the Tomb of Thutmose III created by Factum Arte for the museum's courtyard. It provides unprecedented access to the paintings and text in the tomb without harming the originals in any way.
3D model of the exhibition layout
The exhibition was brought to Switzerland through the efforts of the Friends of the Royal Tombs of Egypt, who have been working on the idea of facsimiles of the fragile tombs since the 1980s, in conjunction with Dr André Wiese, the Antikenmuseum’s curator. It is the extensive Egyptian collection held by this museum devoted to the art of such ancient civilisations that provided the approximately 50 sculptures and objects alongside works from the Kestner Museum of Hanover, kindly made available by its curator Dr Christian E. Loeben. Not only do these complement the ancient setting and culture through illustrating the rituals surrounding burial, mummification, and rebirth; the themes of the Book of the Amuduat painted onto walls of the Tomb of Thutmose III are given insight and context.
The first complete depiction ever found of the tale ever found, the Amuduat chronicles the Pharaoh’s journey through the twelve hours of darkness from sunset to sunrise the next morning. The text is a manual providing the key to eternity and identifies the magical spells and incantations required to overcome the dangers of the underworld. These painted walls were extensively photographed and then scanned by Factum Arte in order to construct a vast, enlarged digital collage that removed all parallax effects and photographic distortion. The resulting files were then retouched to match the colours to those used in the original and subsequently printed onto gesso panels using a flatbed pigment printer with an average dimension of 210 x 110 cm. The final dimensions of the facsimile stood at 18 x 9 x 3.2 metres, with two free-standing square columns measuring 1.2 metres on each side. Following the printing, key final detailing was added by hand to further emulate the damage and ageing that gives the original walls their character and in turn reinforce the unnerving feeling of being inside an ancient tomb to the viewer.