Sep 21, 2016 | By Tess

A 3D printed replica of the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra, which was unveiled earlier this year in London, has just made its first appearance at New York City’s City Hall Park, where it will remain on display until the end of the week. The technologically remade replica of the ancient monument, which itself was destroyed in 2015 by ISIS, was created through a collaboration between the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) and UNESCO.

The original Monumental Arch was built in the ancient Semitic city of Palmyra, Syria, where it stood from the 3rd century until October 2015, when it was destroyed. Historically, the arch was built as the entrance to the Temple of Bel, and later served as a Christian place of worship, and then an Islamic mosque. More recently, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the ancient ruins, marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were a popular tourist attraction in the region. Unfortunately, however, the original monument was destroyed by ISIS militants, who blew up the ancient ruin with explosives just a year ago.

photos from Digital Archaeology Twitter

In an effort to reclaim the lost monument and show that history and culture can live on despite terror, the Institute for Digital Archeology and UNESCO have created a two-third scale replica of the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra as part of their Million Image Database, a program through which volunteers are provided with 3D cameras so that they can digitally capture images of threatened cultural or architectural sites within conflict zones.

As Roger Michel, the IDA’s executive director explains, “We hope to signal the potential for triumph of human ingenuity over violence and celebrate images from the past that unite the cultures they represent. We also hope that visitors to the installations will consider the role of physical objects in defining their history and weigh carefully the question of where precisely history and heritage reside.”

photo from Digital Archaeology Twitter

The replicated arch was made based off of 3D models, which were generated from a number of 2D photographs of the actual arch. The final product is a 25 foot tall, 30,000 pound replica arch made from Egyptian marble that looks just like the original ruin. For the production process, two robots in Carrara, Italy (a region known for its marble quarries), were able to create the arch’s blocks based off of the finely detailed 3D model, which were then assembled on the spot, first at London’s Trafalgar Square, and more recently in New York City.

At the replicated monument’s unveiling in NYC, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen expressed the political significance of the arch, saying that it is an act of solidarity with the people of Syria as well as an “act of defiance” that conveys the following message: “we will not stand for acts of terrorism, we will not stand for people murdered and thrown out of their country.” A message, which not only reverberates within the Middle East conflict zone, but also within the United States’ own borders.

After being displayed in New York City for the next week, the Palmyra Arch will then be transported and assembled in Dubai. Ultimately, the IDA hopes that it will be able to bring the 3D modeled arch back to its home in Palmyra, close to where the original arch was destroyed.

Ruins of the Monumental Arch in Palmyra circa 2010



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