[UPDATED APRIL 7, 2016]
Last August, the Islamic State, a.k.a. “ISIS”, made a big show of demolishing the Temple of Bel in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and executing Khaled al As’ad, a retired university professor and antiquities specialist. When ISIS raiders demanded to know where Palmyra’s treasures were stored, Khaled refused to tell them. Instead of divulging the location where many of the site’s artifacts were stored, Khaled pointed to the ancient columns and ruins, and said, “There is the treasure of Palmyra”.[i]
In honor of the damaged UNESCO World Heritage site, three full scale models of the Palmyra Arch, which served as the ceremonial entrance to the ancient pagan temple, are now under construction using 3-D printing and will go on display April 19th in Trafalgar Square in London, Times Square in New York, and downtown Dubai. [ii]
[UPDATE: The London Telegraph is now reporting that the New York installation has been postponed. The Institute for Digital Archaeology website says the Times Square installation will take place in September. The Telegraph is also reporting that the arch under construction has been changed from the “Temple of Bel Arch” to the “Triumphal Entry Arch”. Read full story here.
This is a global demonstration of advanced 3-D printing technology that will allow many ancient sites to be restored/rebuilt in the years ahead under the auspices of UNESCO and the Venice Charter.
The Venice Charter went into effect in 1964 and calls for the restoration and reconstruction of ancient archeological buildings and sites. With 3-D printing technology now available on a large scale, the Charter has taken on a life of it’s own. The entire Temple of Bel, which was destroyed at Palmyra last year by ISIS, can and will be rebuilt. Thousands of photographs and precise measurements are already being compiled at the Institute for Digital Archeology.
It is also possible that the ancient Jewish Temple can be rebuilt using this same technology. There are already several UNESCO World Heritage designations within the borders of Israel. Could it be that the Jerusalem “problem” will be settled by a World Heritage designation for the entire Old City, including the Temple Mount? Israel may look favorably on such a designation if it means the Venice Charter could/would be invoked on the Temple Mount in the years ahead.
Unlike the ancient Jewish Temple, the original Temple of Bel was dedicated to the Mesopotamian god Ba’al, “whose principal forms of worship were burning babies alive and bisexual orgies.”[iii] While the temple’s destruction at the hands of ISIS is considered a loss of unprecedented historic and archeological significance, its reconstruction using the latest in 3-D printing technology is considered a monumental technological achievement.
Palmyra’s long and bloodied history has continued well into the 21st Century. The Islamic State, a.k.a. “ISIS” has been murdering people and carrying out the systematic destruction and looting of antiquities sites across Syria and Iraq on an industrial scale. As the cost in human casualties mounts, troves of historical treasures and artifacts are being demolished or stolen, with many rare pieces being sold into private collections in order to fund the weapons of war.
Khaled al As’ad spent his life cataloguing and preserving the historical artifacts unearthed from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. When news reports surfaced of the beheading of 82 year old Khaled last August in front of the ancient temple, few people fathomed the historical significance.
Khaled’s headless body was left lying among the very ruins he worked so hard to preserve. A sign with the word “heretic” scribbled in blood was placed across his chest.
Ironically, two thousand years ago, such blood letting was a near daily occurrence on that very same ground, only it wasn’t 82 year old men who were being beheaded, but scores of infants and children. While many westerners may view the Palmyra Arch and the Temple of Bel as a “symbol of religious tolerance and multi-culturalism”, others may view them as a symbol of sexual perversion and a reminder of the millions of babies still being sacrificed on the altar of convenience.
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