Wednesday 16 January 2019

Can part of Palmyra's lost heritage be saved?

At  Palmyra  modern technologies are being used to restore the ancient site and its treasures
(Giuseppe Mancini, 'Can part of Palmyra's lost heritage be saved?' al-monitor January 15, 2019)
The ancient city had been put on UNESCO's list of endangered sites in 2013, two years after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage was launched the following year, with European Union funding. The project digitized inventories and archives and raised awareness about looting and trafficking. In 2016, after the first occupation of Palmyra by IS, UNESCO, European governments and cultural institutes worldwide initiated a campaign to restore its monuments. Some restoration projects are bearing fruit. For example, in 2016 Italian experts restored two badly mutilated funerary statues, gluing broken pieces together and replacing missing fragments using 3-D printing and nylon powders. Before being restituted to the National Museum of Damascus, they were displayed at the exhibition space at the Colosseum in Rome along with a reconstruction of the bas-relief from the Temple of Bel decorated with the Zodiac. IS dynamited the original. The Damascus museum joined in the collective effort, restoring the 15-ton iconic limestone lion that protected the entrance to the temple of Al-lat. Digital reconstructions are another approach in reviving Palmyra, as “Millennial Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul,” a current exhibition in Paris at the Institut du Monde Arabe, demonstrates. Some experts prefer more tangible approaches. For instance, in 2016 Maamoun Abdul Karim, former director of Syrian antiquities, proposed physically reconstructing destroyed buildings through anastylosis, using surviving remains. 

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