Researchers at Harvard University recently used computer modeling software to recreate the 4500-year-old throne of Queen Hetepheres, an Egyptian ruler who lived around 2550 BCE. The ornate replica is currently on display in a new exhibit at the Harvard Semitic Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1925, a joint archaeological expedition between Harvard University and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts unearthed Hetepheres’s tomb in Giza, Egypt. The room was filled with once-majestic furniture that had deteriorated over millennia. According to the Boston Globe, conservators and craftsman used detailed archaeological notes from the Giza expedition to build copies of some of the tomb’s furniture pieces in the 1930s; today, they sit in the Cairo Museum and in storage at the Museum of Fine Arts. Hetepheres’s inlaid wood-and-gold throne, however—a find that archaeologists say is one of the most elaborate pieces of royal furniture from Egypt’s Old Kingdom—was too complicated to replicate.
In recent years, advances in technology allowed a fresh generation of scholars to pick up where their predecessors left off. To build the intricate chair, an interdisciplinary team at Harvard first created a 3D digital model of the tomb and its artifacts. They then used a computer-controlled, five-axis milling machine to construct an exact likeness of the throne.
Fashioned from cedar, wrapped in gold foil, and fitted with ceramic falcons, flagstaffs, beetles, and arrows, the brand new throne resembles the original down to the last detail. It was also created using techniques that the original builder used thousands of years ago, team members say.
“This is experimental archaeology,” Rus Gant, lead technical artist on the project, told the Boston Globe. “We wanted to know how they made it, not just replicate something that looked like it."
Thanks to the chair, experts now know more about furniture craftsmanship in ancient Egypt. However, some ancient mysteries—like the meanings behind some of the chair's inlaid symbols—continue to stymie them.
The throne initiative came courtesy of the Giza Project, a comprehensive digital resource of all archaeological finds from the storied Egyptian city. It includes notes, diaries, photographs, and maps, as well as 3D virtual creations of its famous sites. Learn more about the chair on their website, or see it in person; Recreating the Throne of Egyptian Queen Hetepheres is an ongoing exhibit at the Harvard Semitic Museum.
[h/t Boston Globe]
All images courtesy of YouTube.