A replica of a historic Roman era arch from Syria that was destroyed by the Islamic State (Isis) in 2015 was unveiled in City Hall Park, New York City on Monday (19 September) as the United Nations General Assembly got underway. As part of its "cultural cleansing" attempts in the Middle East, IS (Daesh) militants blew up the 2,000-year-old Arch of Triumph, an archaeological jewel in the ancient city of Palmyra last year, where they also levelled two other historic temples.
The two-thirds scale replica was made by the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) from marble using 3D imaging technology based on dozens of photographs of the original arch taken by archaeologists and tourists before the Unesco World Heritage site was captured by IS in May 2015. Robots in Italy then used the 3D model to carve out a detailed 20-feet marble replica.
The recreated arch was constructed by experts at IDA – a joint venture between Harvard University, the University of Oxford and Dubai's Museum of the Future – as a symbol of solidarity with Syria to raise awareness about the destruction of significant cultural artefacts across the globe and the fight to safeguard common universal heritage.
New York City Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said that the arch is "first and foremost an act of solidarity" with the people of Syria as well as an "act of defiance" that says "we will not stand for acts of terrorism, we will not stand for people murdered and thrown out of their countries," NY Daily News reported.
"We in New York have always been a city of inclusion and tolerance and welcoming people, and a city where we like to marry the old and the new. So what could be more appropriate than to have this symbol of freedom in front of City Hall, so close to where we had our own challenges?"
The unveiling of the replica comes just two days after home-made bombs went off in Manhattan and New Jersey over the weekend, injuring 29 people. Glen said that the timing and location of the arch's unveiling is also significant "particularly on a day like today, where acts of vandalism and terrorism are so much on all of our minds".
Weighing around 11 tonnes, the arch will be exhibited in New York's City Hall Park with an accompanying exhibition at the Grolier Library, allowing visitors to learn more about the rising use of technology to preserve global cultural heritage using AR and VR technology.
The arch was previously showcased in London's Trafalgar Square for four days in April coinciding with World Heritage Week. The recreated arch will be taken to different cities across the globe, including Dubai, before it is expected to be taken back to Palmyra next year, which was recaptured at the end of March from Islamist terrorists.
"Without reconstructions, destroyed sites will, in time, be swallowed by the sands and forgotten, and with them the history for which they provided the last remaining visual cues," IDA director of technology Alexy Karenowska told The Guardian in April. "The IDA is dedicated to resisting that cycle and helping to preserve the history of a region that defined the artistic, literary, scientific and architectural traditions of the world."