3D images of sites in Middle East gathered to preserve history

Ruins are pictured in the historical city of Palmyra, May 13, 2010. | REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR

The crisis in the Middle East and North Africa has resulted to a lot of damage to historical sites and priceless artifacts. The mass destruction has prompted historians, members of the academia and governments to find a way to preserve the sites, if only through 3D images. The Institute for Digital Archaeology has launched a project aimed at doing this.

Called Million Image Database, the endeavor is a joint project of several groups.

"In collaboration with UNESCO, engineering specialists at Oxford University, our other academic partners, and the government of the United Arab Emirates, we are in the process of capturing millions of 3D images of threatened objects," the institute explains in its website. "Armed with lightweight, discreet and easy-to-use 3D cameras, our dedicated volunteer photographers are capturing high quality scans at important sites in conflict zones throughout the Middle East and North Africa."

Early this year, the institure distributed low-cost but high-tech cameras to volunteer photographers who would take images of the sites located in areas where there is conflict. Numbering about 5,000, these cameras can take high quality images for inclusion in the institute's open-source database, for use in "research, heritage appreciation, educational programs and 3D replication."

The institute will be producing the first full-scale replication of a heritage site this April by means of "proprietary cement-based 3D printing techniques." According to Breitbart, this will be the triumphal arc of Palmyra, a site destroyed by IS last October, which will be displayed in Times Square in New York and Trafalgar Square in London. Other replicas will be made throughout the year until 2017.

Meanwhile, in Syria, French and Syrian archaeologists are also working together to capture images of the country's sites that are threatened by the presence of the terror group Islamic State. According to The Christian Post, the endeavor is a joint project of the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums and Iconem, a French imaging company.

Maamoun Abdulkarim, head of DGAM, said, as quoted by Breitbart, "This solution gives our archaeological sites a real hope of renaissance and allows the memory of them to be preserved, no matter what happens."