When history ceases, there is technology to feel the gap. These seemingly antithetical avenues are going to come together, courtesy of some designers from the Institute for Digital Archaeology. As a result, we might see the full-scale renditions of the glorious Palmyra Arch, a Greco-Roman styled monument that was probably demolished by ISIS back in October of 2015. But beyond just constructing the replicas in a conventional manner, the team has decided to the take the 3D printing route. So we would see the designers using a large 3D printer for their heroic effort.
From the historical perspective, the settlement of Palmyra with its assortment of different people ranging from Arameans to Arabs, thrived from the 1st century AD, partly due to its strategic trading location (134 miles from Damascus) that was in proximity to the caravan routes. And with its rising wealth, the city went through an opulent constructional phase that including several Greco-Roman styled building, including the famed Temple of Bel (which was destroyed by ISIS in August, 2015). The 2,000-years old Palmyra Arch was built as the grand entrance-way to this very temple complex, and as such rose to an impressive height of 15 m (almost 50 ft).
Now in regard to the our contemporary affairs, researchers are still not sure if the Palmyra Arch had been completely destroyed by the forces of ISIS. As Alexy Karenowska, the director of technology for the Institute for Digital Archaeology, said –
The status is uncertain. This is part of the motivation for selecting this particular object for the installation. Given the level of destruction in Palmyra, it seems unlikely it has survived without some damage, but if it remains standing in any form, it represents an outstanding symbol of resilience. If it doesn’t, then the message is obviously just as powerful, but for different reasons.
So in any case, the team members have resolved to go ahead with their plans. The endeavor entails the 3D printing of the entire replicas in off-site bases, and their subsequent transportation to the specific locations. These specific locations equate to the Trafalgar Square in London and the Times Square in New York.
And interestingly, beyond just the herculean task of 3D printing detailed and imposing historical facades, the Institute for Digital Archaeology has also started other fascinating projects for preservation of history. For example, in another conscientious endeavor, the organization has collaborated with UNESCO to distribute around 5,000 low-cost 3D cameras among volunteers. These cameras are to used for taking photographs and documenting images of the threatened cultural artifacts and structures in Middle East and North Africa. In fact, the institute expects over 20 million of such images to be collected. And once they are processed, the experts can build an accessible database that can be later used for both education and even 3D replication. As the institute website makes it clear –
Digital archaeology represents the natural evolution of classical archaeology, permitting researchers to look at ancient objects in a whole new way, to uncover hidden inscriptions, invisible paint lines, the faintest palimpsests…and to share these discoveries with the world. Beyond that, as the Million Image Database demonstrates, it can put these crucially important repositories of our cultural identity and shared history forever beyond the reach of those who would destroy them.