"A Cradle of Civilisation"
Keywords: architecture, archival practice, documentation, mapping, memory, photogrammetry
Once a home to six Unesco world heritage sites, all of which whom now have been either severely damaged or destroyed, Syria’s built environment suffered under the attack of ISIS and other rebel groups. Archaeological sites such as the 2,000 year old Triumphal Arch, in the historical city of Palmyra, have now been reduced to rubble. Footage to the destruction of some of these sites has also been posted on social media by the rebel groups, having the country’s fled citizens witness their heritage being erased live. With many outstanding heritages in ruins, post-war construction efforts are now in focus more than ever.
Taking the ancient city of Palmyra as a specific case study to understand the loss of cultural heritage, we can begin to deliberate the choices of post-war reconstruction through 3D modelling. Moreover, understanding that the issue is not only related to technical implications of the process, but the importance of the locals involvement in the rehabilitation of their own cities. There are many questions surrounding the authenticity of post-war proposals, as there is a risk of losing the existing cultural heritage and being a victim of propaganda. In order to avoid such mistakes, we need to have further understanding into the words cultural heritage and cultural identity, specifically in the context of Palmyra.
With compile photographs/videos of the past, present and future of the following archeological sites in Palmyra: Triumphal Arch, Temple of Bel and The Theatre, I examined them and their remains after their destruction in 2015. I collected on-site photographs of the archeological sites from a family friend in Syria, who I interviewed to discuss his views on post-war reconstruction and what this heritage means to his hometown.
Using visual interrogation I compiled on-site photographs, I supported my collection with imagery from google earth in order to have enough data for 3D modelling. I then transcribed and translated the online interview conducted with the Syrian family friend, who resides near Palmyra, to discuss his views on the current state of the city and reconstruction ideas. In order to get an understanding of Palmyra before the invasion of IS, I was able to find footage online. To visualise the archeological sites in their current state, I then generating a dense cloud and roughly-accurate 3D model of the ancient sites using the compiled photographs on application Metashape. The last step was to generate 3D models of what the archeological sites are envisioned to be like after future reconstruction efforts in Palmyra, post-IS. While creating the film I decided to overlay the models on top of each other in different opacities, to help the viewer visualise the ruins of the site, and what it means to reconstruct them.