IBM brings ancient Egypt to life using state of the art tech


25 Feb 2004

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IBM and the Egyptian government have together unveiled what is being hailed as one of the most impressive applications of technology to historical study.

At a press conference in Cairo yesterday, Dr Ahmed Nazif, the Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology, and Hans Ulrich Maerki, general manager, IBM EMEA, introduced ‘Eternal Egypt’, a multimedia showcase of more than 5,000 years of Egyptian history.

Eternal Egypt comprises three elements: collections from prominent museums all around Egypt, historic sites throughout the country, and a special new website, www.eternalegypt.org. These elements are all based on an interconnected set of artifacts, places, and characters that form a complex content database.

The centrepiece of the project is the website which includes high-resolution images and three-dimensional reconstructions of the Egyptian antiquities, as well as virtually-reconstructed environments, 360 degree images, and panoramic views of present-day Egypt captured by web cameras at such locations as Karnak Temple in Luxor and Qait Bey in Alexandria.

Visitors to the site can enter a virtual reconstruction of Tutankhamun’s tomb as it looked the day Howard Carter discovered the chamber in 1922, or view the Lighthouse of Alexandria as it appeared before it was destroyed in the 14th century. Viewers even can examine the face of the Sphinx as it looked 2,000 years ago.

An innovative, interactive map and timeline will guide Eternal Egypt visitors through the country’s cultural heritage, while a Connections function permits visitors to explore the complex relationships between the objects, places and characters of Egypt’s past. The website is available in English, French and Arabic, with audio narration on demand.

IBM funded the project through a US$2.5m grant of technology and expertise from its research and services teams in the US and Egypt. The Egyptian government contributed a team of experts which developed the rich content of the system.

“This partnership has joined one of the world’s oldest civilisations with the latest innovations in IBM technology,” Dr Nazif said. “The outcome represents the richest repository of information and media about Egyptian cultural history available on the web today.”

“Working in partnership with the Egyptian government, IBM’s Eternal Egypt project has greatly enhanced accessibility to Egyptian culture in the networked world, and will have positive implications for education, tourism and national development,” IBM’s Maerki said.

“All combined, the new technology has made it possible to see Egypt in ways we never imagined – to see our country as it was thousands of years ago,” said Dr Fathi Saleh, director of the Egyptian Centre for the Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CultNat). “This collaboration has produced the means to make Egyptian cultural heritage known worldwide – not just the era of the pharaohs, but our entire heritage.”

By Brian Skelly