How industrial-scale fabrication is giving a 2,000-year-old treasure a new lease on life.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Both London and New York will soon be home to one of the ancient treasures of Syria, thanks to some innovative efforts on the part of archeological preservationists and digital historians.
Well, sort of.
It was announced this week that the Institute for Digital Archaeology is spearheading efforts to reconstruct the archway of the Palmyra Temple of Bel, the only remnant of the 2,000-year-old structure, which was damaged by ISIS militants this past summer. Plans are underway to recreate the fabled arch in the two Western cities as a “gesture of defiance” against the fundamentalist pseudo-state, reportsThe Guardian.
To do so, the IDA is turning to its archival images of the arch, pre-ISIS damage, in order to supply data to what the Daily Mailcalls “the world’s largest 3D printer,” which will fabricate sections of the arch in China. Those sections, then, will be constructed on-site in their destination cities.
IDA director Roger Michel is quoted in The Guardian as saying:
“It is really a political statement, a call to action, to draw attention to what is happening in Syria and Iraq and now Libya. We are saying to them ‘if you destroy something we can rebuild it again.’ The symbolic value of these sites is enormous. We are restoring dignity to people.”
In fact, this reconstruction is in many ways a natural evolution of the IDA’s existing efforts to digitally preserve at-risk historical treasures. For some time, the institute’s Million Image Database Project has equipped ordinary citizens with inexpensive 3D cameras in an effort to catalog the world’s various archaeological sites before it’s too late. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Arch of Palmyra, damage by ISIS came before the IDA was able to fully collect usable scans. Instead, reports Smithsonian, the arch will be rebuilt based on archived photographs.
According to the BBC, the arch will be constructed and put on display during this coming April’s World Heritage Week. Speaking with that outlet, the IDA’s Alexy Karenowska put the project in perspective.
“People say, ‘Should we be worrying about this stuff when human lives are being lost?’” she said. “Of course all of this stuff takes second place to human life, but these cultural objects are very important to give a sense of place and community.”