Palmyra Arch recreated in London with Dubai and New York next

Archaeologists were on Tuesday to build a full-scale recreation of Palmyra’s iconic Arch of Triumph in London’s Trafalgar Square to mark its liberation from ISIL.

A replica of the Triumphal Arch at Palmyra is unveiled at Trafalgar Square on April 19.  Chris Ratcliffe / Getty Images
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LONDON // A meticulous recreation of one of the most iconic monuments destroyed by ISIL in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra was unveiled in London’s Trafalgar Square on Tuesday.

The six-metre-tall scale replica of the 1,800-year old Arch of Triumph was made from Egyptian marble and carved in the northern Italian region of Tuscany using precision digital technology such as 3D modelling.

After London, the arch will be brought to Dubai and then taken to New York for further public displays.

The project is the idea of the UK-based Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA), a joint venture between Harvard University, the University of Oxford and Dubai’s Museum of the Future.

“Monuments, as embodiments of history, religion, art and science, are significant and complex repositories of cultural narratives,” said Roger Michel, director of the IDA.

“No one should consider for one second giving terrorists the power to delete such objects from our collective cultural record.”

Palmyra, a Unesco World Heritage Site north-east of Damascus known as the “Pearl of the Desert”, was taken back by the Russian-backed Syrian army from ISIL fighters last month.

The city was a major tourist destination before the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, known for its ancient ruins, colonnaded streets and 2,000-year-old temples.

ISIL seized Palmyra last year and beheaded its 82-year-old former antiquities chief three months later.

The extremists destroyed some of the city’s most striking monuments and used the ancient amphitheatre as a venue for public executions.

The remains of the Triumphal Arch, dating back to the era of Roman Emperor Severus in the third century, are scattered on the ground, with only the two columns that once sustained the central crown still standing.

“The life of the Syrian people rests on their cultural identity, and Palmyra represents one of the most unique and exceptional cultural heritage sites, not just in the Syria but the whole world,” said Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s top antiquities official.

Construction of the replica arch in Trafalgar Square, in front of Britain’s National Gallery, started on Monday. It was unveiled by London Mayor Boris Johnson, and will be on display until Thursday.

“This is an arch of triumph and in many ways a triumph of technology and determination,” Mr Johnson said. “We’re here in a spirit of defiance, defiance of the barbarians who destroyed the original ... as they have destroyed so many other relics in Syria and the Middle East.”

The arch is the highest-profile project yet for the IDA, which is also working on building a Million Image Database of 3D pictures of threatened monuments in conflict zones throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

It says it is distributing around 5,000 low-cost 3D cameras to volunteers around the regions who will then upload them to the open-source database.

* Agence France-Presse