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Middle East heritage sites to be documented with 3D imaging

An effort to document heritage sites at risk from destruction in the Middle East using 3D imaging is underway. Led by the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), a joint venture between Harvard and Oxford universities, the Million Image Database project aims to capture one million 3D images of at-risk objects by the end of 2016.

The IDA will deploy 5,000 low-cost 3D cameras to museum affiliates, military personnel, NGO employees and volunteers in conflict zones throughout the Middle East. The camera is a modified version of a consumer 3D camera, designed to capture archive-quality scans.

‘Digital archaeology, in my view, is the best hope that we have for preserving the architecture, the art history, of these sites,’ Roger Michel, executive director of the IDA, told the BBC in an interview.

The data will provide an archive for scholars and a record of such sites. In August, Syrian officials were reporting that Islamic State militants had destroyed the ancient Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, a Unesco World Heritage site built nearly 2,000 years ago.

Michel, speaking to the BBC, said that there were thousands of sites throughout the Middle East which haven’t been thoroughly documented. The 3D technology will show the object topography in such a way as to enable archaeologists to replicate these objects if they wanted to, which isn’t possible with 2D photographs.

Further information:

Institute for Digital Archaeology

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