Aug 28, 2015 | By Simon

While we’ve previously seen how some people are against the use of 3D scanners for archiving artwork due to reproduction concerns, it’s hard to argue that it is among the most versatile and affordable ways of preserving important artifacts.  Among other reasons, aside from the ability to create an accurate 3D model, today’s 3D scanners are easily transported and can be taken to areas that are otherwise hard to access - including war zones.   

In late February of 2015 for example, Islamic extremist group ISIS released a propaganda video that showed members threatening Islamic heritage in the city of Mosul, Iraq.  

The video featured members of the group destroying various ancient and culturally-significant artworks and artifacts that were housed in the Mosul Museum.  While many of the objects that were housed in the museum were replicas due to the relocation of original pieces during the 2003 Iraq War, many of the large objects that remained were originals and could not be easily duplicated.

In an effort to prevent future events like this from happening, Oxford and NYU universities recently announced that a team consisting of modern-day “Monument Men” will be  “flooding” Syria and Iraq with 3D cameras to catalogue buildings of historical significance, preserving knowledge of them should they be obliterated by the area’s terror groups - such as ISIS.  

Last week alone, the terrorists destroyed the Syrian city of Palmyra - a Unesco World Heritage site - including the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin.  According to the team of archaeologists, the archiving of the buildings will enable them to not only preserve the designs for future generations to view interactively, but also allow others to create 3D printed replicas, too.  

The project - called The Million Image Database Project - is a collaboration between the Oxford-based Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) and Unesco and seeks to distribute 5,000 cameras to war zones by the end of this year, capturing one million images by the end of 2016.

In an effort to make gathering the scans easier, the 3D cameras have been modified to be used by those unfamiliar with 3D technologies including museum workers, military personnel and charity volunteers.  Previous efforts have involved more complicated missions to bring 3D scanning experts to job sites - this new approach will allow those who are already at the sites to capture and upload the 3D scans directly to a database held at New York University.  

As ISIS continues to destroy seemingly everything in its path, it becomes clear just how vital an effort like this is in order to preserve relics and buildings of yesterday for tomorrow’s generations.  In the event they are destroyed, the archeologists hope that the images gathered by those already on-site will be detailed enough to be able to recreate them using 3D printers.

"If ISIS is permitted to wipe the slate clean and rewrite the history of a region that defined global aesthetic and political sensibilities, we will collectively suffer a costly and irreversible defeat,” said IDA director Roger Michel in an interview with the Times.   

"But there is hope. By placing the record of our past in the digital realm, it will lie for ever beyond the reach of vandals and terrorists."

Already, a number of volunteers have began the effort of building virtual recreations - such as Project Mosul’s efforts to rebuild the ancient works of art destroyed when ISIS stormed the Mosul Museum.  

"We hope to capture one million 3D images of at-risk objects by the end of 2016,” says the IDA website.  

"This project is the first of its kind in both purpose and scale. However, it is our hope that it will become a model for future similar endeavours. All of the associated technology and software will be open-source to facilitate that goal."


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive