A 3D model of the now-mostly-destroyed Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria suggests action be taken to capture 3D objects before they’re torn down.
The Temple of Bel is, or rather was, an ancient temple original built to worship the Mesopotamian god Bel, from almost 2,000 years ago. During those centuries between its opening and today, it survived reasonably well, considering the successive waves of conquering armies that swept by it.
However, last summer the site was mostly destroyed by the Islamic State with explosives in their mistaken quest for righteousness. Today the site is largely a pile of former temple components, strewn in a large uneven pile.
There’s thought to reconstructing the site, now that it has been retaken by more reasonable authorities. However, this is a massive job.
It is being made possible by a project by Iconem, who have 3D scanned the entire area and uploaded the results to SketchFab.
The digitalized 3D model allows us to observe the existence of stone blocs remaining almost intact, meaning that there might be some hope for a partial reconstruction. Some other blocs however have been dynamited.
Theoretically, the 3D scan could assist in developing an approach for reconstruction, which would likely take years to complete.
But my point here is that this event simply reinforces the need for 3D scans of ANY important structure before they’re destroyed. Even if a building has stood strong for millennia, it is always possible for them to be destroyed or damaged, through earthquakes, accident, fire, military operations or sabotage, as was the case for the former Temple of Bel.
This turns out to be the mission of France-based Iconem:
Iconem's ambition is to preserve the knowledge of threatened heritage using digital advances. Thanks to our ground surveys and our visual processing algorithms, we are able to produce real digital doubles of archaeological remains or expanses. We hence offer the scientific community and the public an innovative means of exploring famous places of world heritage.
For sites under threat of disappearance, our technology guarantees that, whatever happens, the archaeological knowledge will be preserved. By scanning today the sites which are under threat of disappearance tomorrow, we are working to preserve a common asset and we are ensuring its transmission to future generations.
So far the company has undertaken several such projects, but clearly there is so much more to do.
While we cannot do so today, it is possible that in some future decade we will have large scale 3D printing equipment to perform reconstructions based on previously captured 3D models.
We obviously cannot do that today, but we can capture the 3D models.