Norfolk Island jewellery retailer Charles Blackwell has built a replica of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in a bid to attract more customers to his store.
Blackwell, the owner of Madisons Jewellers, said he decided to start building the tomb, which is expected to cost at least $500,000, after meeting a wholesaler who was creating replicas of King Tutankhamun’s jewellery “from the same material and designs as the originals”.
“When I saw the beauty of the jewellery I was mesmerised but realised that I had to find a way to get other people interested too,” he said.
Since that meeting Blackwell has overseen the building of the tomb which “is the exact size of the original” and fitted it out with replica artifacts including the King’s four metre chariot and ceremonial throne as well as his coffin, sarcophagus and death mask.
The tomb and the artifacts have been finished with “world class artwork” by local artist and historian Racheal McConnell “who has used special paints mixed as close as possible to the original Pharonich paints”.
Blackwell said that unlike the original tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, the replica has three rooms open for public viewing.
“In the original tomb visitors only have access to one room (the burial chamber) as the other two rooms have been emptied by museums,” he said.
“We have however recreated those rooms as well and are filling them up with replicas of the original objects that were stored in them.”
Blackwell said the only difference between his tomb and the original is the length of the entrance tunnel.
“We had to reduce that to five metres – the original is 20 metres long.”
Although the tomb is already open to visitors, Blackwell said he doesn’t know when his ambitious project will be completed.
“It is an ongoing project. King Tutankhamun’s tomb had 4000 artifacts in it while ours currently only has about 240.”
Nonetheless, Blackwell concluded that the tomb, which is located aside his existing 450 square metre store, would benefit not only his business but the whole island.
“Tourism has been slow on Norfolk for a few years now so the island needs more variety,” he said.
“The Minister of Tourism has already presented us with a plaque stating the government’s appreciation for creating a world class attraction and an archeologist who visited the tomb has written “it is well worth coming to Norfolk Island just to see this” in our visitors’ book.
Visitors to Blackwell’s tomb pay a small entry fee, walk through the tomb and then exit via a showroom where Egyptian jewellery and artifacts ranging in price from $100 to $8000are available for purchase.