An edited Post was originally written for Global Voices
Palmyra’s “Nightmare is Over” says Syria’s Head of Antiquities. His statement comes after Assad forces recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra which was under ISIS control since May 2015. However, 3D project was in progress since a while when Bassel Khartabil, the detained Syrian activist launched his #NewPlamyra pioneer initiative.
In less than a year, Palmyra lost most of its majestic archaeological monuments, the Baalshamin Temple, The Temple of Bel, two of the oldest structures in Palmyra, Arch of Triumph, The Tower of Elanbel and recently revealed the sabotage of its National Museum.
The extremist organization imposed its control over Palmyra city which is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, in May 2015. The guerrillas have beheaded Khaled Asaad, the archaeologist has been in charge over 40 years. The destruction, or stealing and selling old artifacts on Facebook of museums and ancient sites been justified as that don’t conform with their medieval notion of Islam or been considered idols. The same fate was for a number of pre-islam archaeological sites in Iraq including 3,000-Year-Old Sculptures at a Museum in Mosul, Iraq.
— Terrormonitor.org (@Terror_Monitor) March 28, 2016
New Palmyra Project
The first effort of having Palmyra ruins back digitally was in 2005. Was a dream of Bassel Khartabil, Palestinian-Syrian computer engineer and activist, Creative Commons leader in Syria and worked actively projects like Mozilla Firefox and Wikipedia, to reconstruct the old city in a free online database of renderings and media that helps reconstruct Palmyra’s history. His archive shows that in 2008 was able to construct complete 3D models.
— New Palmyra (@NewPalmyraOrg) March 10, 2016
However, Bassel arrested in March 15, 2012 and now is completing his four years in prison with his October 2015 forced disappearance. He is credited with opening up the Syrian Internet and extending online access and knowledge to the public. On October 7, 2015 Human Rights Watch and 30 other human rights organizations issued a letter demanding that Khartabil’s whereabouts be disclosed.
According to Wired website, New Palmyra isn’t the only initiative seeking to use digital modeling to save the Middle East’s treasures from ISIS.
The Oxford Institute of Digital Archaeology has launched a Million Images Database seeks to bring low-cost 3D cameras to activists in Syria who can still document Another project by the 3D-scanning focus non-profit CyArk aims to use laser scanners to create models of endangered antiquities down to a few millimeters of accuracy.
Digital Archaeology project is planning to display the replicates of the Temple of Bel entry arch, date back to 32 AD, in London’s Trafalgar Square on 19th April, 2016.
Although reported that Syrian Archaeological authorities have hidden some 300,000 artifacts from around Syria to safe places even before ISIS control most Northeastern territories, but buildings and ancient structures were left to face its own destiny. A Syrian official announced an instant recovery plan to restore Palmyra by the end of 2016.
“We expected the worst because of the liberation fighting but I think the nightmare is over. The panoramic picture of Palmyra is fine,”.
The government will take “precautionary measures in order not to let Palmyra fall again,”