The Tutankhamun Replicas

The British Empire Exhibition 1924

The discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun had caught the public imagination, leading to a widespread 'Tutmania' and a popular craze for all things Egyptian. It was decided that a replica tomb would be created at the British Empire Exhibition of 1924, and a set of replica funerary items found in the Antechamber of the tomb were created from photographs by architectural sculptor William Aumonier and a team of assistants.

A 'Complete' Replica

The Exhibition brochure described the attraction as:
"A complete replica of the tomb of the Egyptian King recently discovered at Luxor, Egypt by Lord Carnarvon and Mr Howard Carter - entrance 1/3, children 8d". Of course 'complete' wasn't quite correct. At the time of the Exhibition opening in 1924, only the Antechamber had been cleared, and the Sarcophagus with its iconic gold mask not yet opened. The items on show could only be a complete record of the small number of items discovered and photographed so far.

Visitors to the replica tomb were greeted with an imposing cutaway facade of the cliffs of Thebes, and could be guided around the treasures of the King by tour guides in red tarbooshes. Authenticity was added in 1925 with the addition of a sandy walkway and a camel! However the tomb itself was not actually inside the Wembley Exhibition, but instead was placed in the Amusement park, between the Flying machine and the Safety Racer. As Egypt had never been part of the British Empire, and relations with Egypt were complex and ambiguous at best, it was decided that the replica tomb didn't really fit in with the main Exhibition's purpose of uniting and stimulating trade between the Empire States.

Howard Carter's Outrage

The attraction proved immensely popular with visitors, but Howard Carter was outraged. He wanted the replicas destroyed and the exhibition closed down, claiming it was a breech of copyright, and that it was impossible to replicate the originals from a few photographs. Despite his protestations Carter lost the case. The reconstructed tomb remained one of the greatest hits of the Exhibition.