A rendering of the Temple of Bel recreation in Trafalgar Square. IDA

And in New York, too.

When the Islamic State blew up the nearly 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, last summer, one could be forgiven for thinking the world would never see the building’s façade ever again.

But the structure’s 50-foot arch survived—and this April, it’s coming to England. Thanks to 3D printing, a reproduction will be installed in London’s heavily-trafficked Trafalgar Square.

The copy comes via the Institute for Digital Archaeology’s Million Image Project. It is a collaboration between UNESCO and the IDA, which is a partnership between Harvard University, the University of Oxford, and Dubai’s Museum of the Future. The project has armed a number of volunteer photographers with lightweight, high-quality 3D cameras and charged them with scanning important, threatened sites across the Middle East and North Africa.

(IDA)

Though the Temple of Bel was destroyed before photographers could get it into IDA’s database, researchers were able to reproduce part of the ancient building with help from thousands of two-dimensional images.

The arch will be printed in segments and then assembled at two display sites—Trafalgar Square and a to-be-determined setting in New York—as part of a larger IDA celebration of World Heritage Week.

(IDA)

The aim of the proposed installation on Trafalgar Square is to draw international attention to the global crisis surrounding the looting and destruction of cultural heritage objects,” Alexy Karenowska, IDA’s director of technology, writes in an email.

Beyond that, though, she says the organization hopes the installation celebrates the beauty “and significance of these objects to the everyday lives of modern people.”

The gesture is particularly poignant for this temple, which was used throughout the centuries by Mesopotamians, Christians, and finally Muslims as a place of worship. In the 1st and 2nd centuries, Palmyra sat the crossroads of Greco-Roman and Arab cultures, and produced distinctively beautiful art and architecture.  Before it was destroyed, the Temple of Bel was regarded as one of the best-preserved remains of the era.

The Temple of Bel, prior to the Islamic State’s invasion of Palmyra. The front arch is the portion of the temple that IDA will recreate in London and New York. (Wikimedia Commons/Bernard Gagnon)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. An illustration of the Memorial Day flood in Ellicott City, Maryland.
    Environment

    In a Town Shaped by Water, the River Is Winning

    Storms supercharged by climate change pose a dire threat to river towns. After two catastrophic floods, tiny Ellicott City faces a critical decision: Rebuild, or retreat?

  2. A photo of police officers sealing off trash bins prior to the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo in 2015.
    Life

    Carefully, Japan Reconsiders the Trash Can

    The near-absence of public garbage bins in cities like Tokyo is both a security measure and a reflection of a cultural aversion to littering.

  3. A line of stores in Westport, Connecticut
    Equity

    Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing

    In southwest Connecticut, the gap between rich and poor is wider than anywhere else in the country. Invisible walls created by local zoning boards and the state government block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.

  4. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  5. Cars sit in a crosswalk.
    Transportation

    What if More People Could Issue Parking Tickets?

    Washington, D.C., considers training a group of residents to give tickets for some parking violations. Would it make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists?