Feb 17, 2017 | By Benedict

Restoration experts in Rome have used 3D printing to repair two damaged busts salvaged from the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria. A number of the city’s buildings and artifacts have been damaged or destroyed by ISIS, who took control of the city in 2015 and then again in December 2016.

Up until the outbreak of Syrian conflict in 2011, the ancient city of Palmyra was one of the Middle East’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing 105,000 visitors a year. And for good reason too: the UNESCO heritage site, which contained ancient structures such as the famous Temple of Bel, the Arch of Triumph, and four cemeteries, was spectacularly well preserved. That all changed when ISIS took control of the city and began destroying its ancient buildings and statues, which are considered by the terrorist organization to be idolatrous against the Islamic religion. Unesco has argued that the actions of ISIS constitute a war crime punishable by the International Criminal Court.

Although much of the historic site has been turned to rubble, many conservationists have remained committed to preserving what remains of Palmyra—whether by salvaging original items from the city, or by other more unusual means. One of those other means involves 3D printing: since 2015, conservationists have sought to defy the destructive will of ISIS by recreating destroyed buildings and monuments as 3D printed models. These 3D printed structures of Palmyra landmarks have been displayed in London’s Trafalgar Square, New York City’s Time Square, and elsewhere.

But while 3D printing can be used to create replicas of structures that have been totally destroyed, it can also be used to “patch up” original artifacts. Restoration experts in Rome recently used additive manufacturing technology to restore two damaged limestone funerary busts that were salvaged from Palmyra shortly after the first ISIS occupation was brought to an end. The restorers used a 3D printer to fabricate missing pieces for the busts, which were originally made in the 2nd or 3rd century, and attached the 3D printed parts to the originals using magnets.

Daria Montemaggiori, one of the restoration experts working on the busts, said she was “filled with anguish” upon seeing the damaged busts, but was “happy to collaborate” on fixing them. Montemaggiori carried out the restoration in collaboration with Antonio Iaccarino Idelson.

When the 3D printing project is finished, which should be around the end of the month, the experts in Rome plan to send the busts to a museum in Damascus, Syria. They may some day be returned to Palmyra, though that looks unlikely to happen any time soon.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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