3D imaging cameras are to be distributed widely in the Middle East in order to record and preserve ancient sites which have become the target of the rogue terrorist organisation Islamic State.
Several thousand locals with a knowledge of archaeological sites and an interest in photography will be recruited to capture images, as part of a project by Oxford and Harvard archaeologists and academics.
The results of the project will allow 3D printers to rebuild replicas of damaged buildings and artefacts. This move follows the destruction of World Heritage Sites in Iraq and Syria. Last week one of the best preserved Middle-eastern temples in the Syrian city of Palmyra was destroyed by IS militants.
The Institute for Digital Archaeology has invested in 5,000 cameras set to go to conflict zones across the world to photograph around a million images of at-risk objects by the end of 2016. “This is a race against time,” its executive director Roger Michel told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. “We’ve changed our timetable in recognition of the places being destroyed.” Mr Michel said: “All around the Middle East, they feel so strongly about their local identity and history that they’re willing to help.”
The 3D technology will allow the project to potentially recreate the objects at a later date. The team has designed a cheap 3D camera that will allow inexperienced users to capture high-quality images that will be uploaded automatically to an online database. Mr Michel said: “Digital archaeology, in my view, is the best hope that we have for preserving the architecture, the art history, of these sites.” “Distribution is the biggest challenge,” he added.
Unesco is to be involved in placing the cameras with locals, who are sympathetic with the project.