Nov 23, 2017 | By David

3D scanning and printing technology, when combined, can produce incredibly accurate replicas of all kinds of objects, and this has proven to be useful for the medical sector as well as the retail and manufacturing industries. Cultural heritage is another area where these advances are starting to have a significant impact, and the latest breakthrough in this field should demonstrate 3D technology’s capacity to preserve important artefacts in a particularly attention-grabbing way. A pioneering new exhibition at the U.N headquarters in New York features recreations of some of the ancient Syrian monuments infamously destroyed by members of Islamic State.

Known as "The Spirit in the Stone", this remarkable exhibition is the result of a collaborative project between the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations and the Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA) at the University of Oxford. It was inaugurated by official representatives of each institution as well as the U.N and the U.A.E, including Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama, the country’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, and DFF's Deputy Managing Director.

The centrepiece of the exhibition, which should be regularly updated as part of an ongoing effort to preserve cultural heritage and archaeological sites of the Middle East region, is a newly created 3D printed replica of the statue of Athena from a museum in Palmyra.

Palmyra was an ancient wealthy trade center, and was recognized in 1980 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2015 it was the site of one of Islamic State’s most heinous non-lethal crimes- the destruction of some of world’s most important cultural buildings and objects. The historic Arch of Triumph was another victim of this wanton destruction, and this was recreated faithfully through 3D printing technology as part of the exhibition, shortly before the statue of Athena was unveiled.

As we reported earlier this year, another digital archaeology project focused on Palmyra, known as #NEWPALMYRA, 3D printed a recreation of the Tetrapylon structure from the ancient city and subsequently unveiled it at the Creative Commons summit in Toronto. Another collaborative project in Sri Lanka has also been using 3D technology in a similar way, integrating it with drones to preserve the heritage of that country.

According to Roger Michel, IDA Founder and Executive Director, the United Nations was ''the perfect place to unveil our latest collaboration with the Dubai Future Foundation, a reconstruction of Palmyra's famous Statue of Athena. For thousands of years, Athena was synonymous with reason, refuge and the rule of law all of the same values on which that historic institution was built. Like the Triumphal Arch before it, which has travelled the world and been visited by more than six million people, destroyed by extremists, embodies the international community's commitment to reversing the ravages of intolerance and ignorance. We are proud to gather with world leaders and our colleagues at the Dubai Future Foundation to celebrate humanity's commitment to that noble aspiration.’’

Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama, the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence and the Deputy Managing Director of the Dubai Future Foundation

Dubai has for many years been one of the leading regions in terms of practical, large-scale, public applications of 3D printing technology. The world’s first 3D printed office building was built in the city earlier this year, and a pledge has been made for 25 percent of Dubai’s construction to be 3D printed by 2030. This high-profile move into cultural heritage is a continuation of this trend.

According to Al-Olama, ‘‘The UAE's joint efforts with leading global government entities and academies to replicate the archaeological treasures of the Arab world reflects our government's commitment to preserving history as an inspiration for future generations, and a solid foundation upon which we can build a better future for our region."

 

 

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