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Destroyed Arch Gets Rebirth

Friday, April 22, 2016

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Last year, ISIS forces destroyed a number of ancient buildings in the Syrian city of Palmyra, doing irreparable damage. But one piece of Palmyra’s past is getting something of a second act—with the help of 3D printing.

Palmyra’s landmark arch, referred to by many as the Monumental Arch or the Triumphal Arch, was one of many of the Syrian city’s ancient structures that were destroyed by ISIS in 2015. But this week in London’s Trafalgar Square, the Institute for Digital Archaeology unveiled a two-thirds-scale reproduction of the arch, as part of World Heritage Week.

The reproduction  was carved from stone by a mechanical arm, based on 3D photography of the original—essentially, heavy-duty 3D printing. Italy-based TorArt was responsible for the creation of the piece.

The original arch was built by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago.

'A Google Earth for Heritage'

The arch project was undertaken in conjunction with the IDA’s Million Image Database, a large-scale program for preserving heritage sites using 3D photography. The Institute describes the database as “a Google Earth for heritage.”

The IDA, based in the U.K. and U.S., is using the help of volunteers to capture images of important sites, using 3D cameras supplied by the Institute. The focus, according to the IDA, is on sites that are at risk for destruction.

Upon the database’s official public launch, visitors to its website will be able to explore world heritage sites in three dimensions online.

Palmyra's Monumental Arch, before it was destroyed by ISIS
Bernard Gagnon / CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Palmyra’s Monumental Arch stood between the Collonade and the Temple of Bel, also destroyed last year by ISIS.

“Anyone who appreciates the art and architecture that beautifies the great cities of Europe and North America, who appreciates the science and technology that improves our lives or who enjoys the freedoms of representative democracy has a duty to help restore these lost sites,” IDA Executive Director Roger Michel said in a statement on the Institute’s website. “For in them lies the story of a region in which our collective artistic, scientific and political traditions were born.”

The Institute's plans for the future include on-site reconstructions of heritage sites that have been destroyed. It told the BBC that the arch will be on display in various cities worldwide before, according to the group’s plans, it will be installed in Palmyra. 


Tagged categories: 3D Printing; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures

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