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Tutankhamun’s ‘new’ tomb: Made in Spain

An amazing new replica tomb of the famous final resting place of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun which opened to the public on Thursday was painstakingly assembled in Madrid by a Spanish foundation.

Tutankhamun's 'new' tomb: Made in Spain
The Spain-based Factum Foundation collected ultra-high resolution data from the original tomb of Tutankhamun. Photo: Factum

In 1922, British Egyptologist Howard Carter and his team made one of the most famous archaeological finds of all time when they stumbled upon the nearly intact tomb of Egyptian king Tutankhamun in Luxor's Valley of the Kings.

The stunning discovery included the unearthing of a burial mask of the pharaoh whose rule has been dated to more than 3,000 years ago.

The mask itself has become one of the key symbols of ancient Egypt and Tutankhamun's tomb is a must-see for visitors to Luxor.

But with mass tourism taking its toll on the site, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities settled on an innovative solution to the threat of potential damage: they would build an exact replica.

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The £420,000 (€510,000) project was handed to Madrid-based conservation foundation Factum and in 2009, under the direction of the University of Basel, the company began the slow work of recording the original tomb using high resolution photographic and 3D data.  

The copy of the Egyptian king's burial chamber was then created panel by panel in Madrid.

Work was disrupted by political turmoil in Egypt but the completed tomb opened to the public on Thursday.

"I hope this is the beginning," said project leader Adam Lowe recently.

"This could be a watershed moment where for the first time visitors can really start to talk about sustainable tourism, about how you can preserve the Valley of the Kings itself. It's my dream that it can actually be there in 3,000 years time."

There could be another unexpected advantage to the creation of a new tomb.

The original was rumoured to be subject to the mysterious curse of the pharaohs leading to bad luck, illness or even death for people who tampered with the tombs of Ancient Egypt.    

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Jailed Catalan separatist mulls dropping leadership bid

Jordi Sanchez, a separatist civic leader in jail over his alleged role in Catalonia's secession bid, is mulling dropping his bid to lead the region in what could ease a months-long political blockage.

Jailed Catalan separatist mulls dropping leadership bid
A banner depicting images of Catalan separatist leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez during a protest to demand a Catalan republic. Photo: AFP

In an appeal Tuesday at the Supreme Court against the decision to keep him in jail pending a probe into alleged sedition and rebellion, Sanchez's lawyers said he was “considering giving up his (parliamentary) seat in the coming days.”

If he does this, separatist parties would be able to designate a new candidate for the presidency of Catalonia, which has been under direct rule from Madrid since October 27th when regional lawmakers declared independence.   

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While separatist parties won subsequent regional elections in December, retaining their absolute majority in parliament, they have still not been able to form a government.

Catalonia's former president Carles Puigdemont, who was sacked by Madrid after the independence declaration and left for Belgium where he lives in  self-exile, was their first candidate to lead the region again but he eventually dropped his bid.

Puigdemont instead proposed Sanchez, the former head of the influential pro-independence ANC civil society group.   

But this too has proven problematic as Supreme Court judges refused to release him for a crucial parliamentary session that would officially appoint him president.

In a statement, Sanchez's lawyers acknowledged this, saying he was considering giving up his seat “given the difficulty to work as a lawmaker and attend the parliamentary session as candidate for the regional presidency.”    

The Supreme Court could rule as soon as Tuesday whether it heeds Sanchez's appeal and sets him free.

Eduard Pujol of Puigdemont and Sanchez's separatist Together for Catalonia grouping also confirmed he was mulling quitting politics.    

If that materialises, he said, “we will continue doing everything that is needed not to go to (repeat) elections, to form a government.”