Dec 28, 2015 | By Benedict

A 3D printed replica of a 2,000-year-old Syrian arch is to be erected in Trafalgar Square, London. The model arch of Palmyra will emulate the last standing section of the Temple of Bel, which was razed to the ground by ISIS earlier this year, and will stand as a symbol of defiance against acts of terrorism.

The planned 3D printed arch in Trafalgar Square

3D printing has been used for all kinds of technical and creative projects, but rarely has it been employed for such defiantly political purposes. When the Temple of Bel, which, as part of the whole of Palmyra was considered a UNESCO world heritage site, was reduced to rubble by ISIS fighters in August, the world reacted with shock and disgust. Distraught by the vile actions performed by Islamic State militants, the Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA) decided to use their expertise to send a powerful message back to the aggressors.

The IDA, a joint venture between Harvard University, the University of Oxford and Dubai’s Museum of the Future, specializes in the use of digital imaging and 3D printing in the fields of archaeology and conservation. Earlier this year, the IDA and Unesco distributed 5,000 3D cameras to volunteer photographers in order to capture images of vulnerable historical objects in Middle East conflict zones. The collected 3D images are being uploaded to a “million-image database”, which will be used both for online reference and as the basis of potential 3D printed replicas.

The Temple of Bel prior to its destruction

Although the IDA was unable to capture 3D images of the Temple of Bel prior to its destruction, researchers were still able to create an accurate 3D model using 2D photographs taken of the site. The 3D model will be used to create a huge 3D printed replica of the arch, with pieces being manufactured off-site in Shanghai, finished in Italy, and then fully assembled, LEGO-style, at Trafalgar Square—an iconic location used for numerous political demonstrations over the years.

“People in the west find it very easy to say that the Middle East has this great cultural heritage and this problem [of its destruction] is something that’s happening to them,” said Alexy Karenowska, the IDA’s director of technology. “The idea is to underline that cultural heritage is something that’s shared between people. It’s about people’s roots and it’s important to recognize also that this is something that as humans we do all understand on some deep level.”

The Temple of Bel, located in the Syrian city of Palmyra, was visited by around 1,500 tourists every year prior to its destruction. It was considered one of the best preserved ruins of the ancient city. As well as destroying the temple itself, ISIS militants murdered Khaled al-Asaad, an 82-year-old Syrian archaeologist who had looked after Palmyra’s ruins for four decades. His body was hung in public.

Destruction of the ancient temple

Although the countless atrocities performed by ISIS cannot be undone, the 3D printed replica of the ancient arch has been designed to function as a symbol of defiance against the hateful principles of the group.

“It is really a political statement, a call to action, to draw attention to what is happening in Syria and Iraq and now Libya,” said Roger Michel, the IDA’s executive director. "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.”

The 3D printed arch of Palmyra replica will be displayed during World Heritage Week in April, however London Mayor Boris Johnson is said to have asked about keeping the model in the square permanently, showing even greater, long-term defiance. The Trafalgar Square arch will be made of stone powder and a lightweight composite, in order to minimize the impact of the structure upon the paved ground of the square. A second replica has been proposed for display in Time Square, New York, and through 3D printing, the project hopes to eventually be able to recreate the entire ancient Temple. 



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Corey Warren wrote at 12/29/2015 12:17:57 AM:

They should provide a small scale STL file so people with a desktop 3D printer like me can print one. An item like this on a work desk may spark conversation about the subject and provide additional awareness of the issue.

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