A recreation of Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph has been unveiled in New York on Monday, almost a year after Islamic State militants destroyed the original structure.
The 1,800-year-old Roman arch was blown up by the extremist group last October, but a team of archaeologists at Oxford University’s Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) set about recreating it, in an act of resistance to Isis’s rampant acts of cultural destruction in Iraq and Syria.
Standing at two-thirds the scale of the original, the arch is made of Egyptian marble and was built using 3D printing technology, based on photographs of the original arch.
Isis captured the city from government forces in May 2015, and progressively damaged its Roman-era ruins, staging mass executions in the ancient amphitheater. In addition to destroying artefacts, the extremist group looted and resold them to fund its activities.
The group also beheaded Palmyra’s renowned antiquities scholar, Khaled al-Asaad, last August, because he apparently refused to reveal where valuable artefacts had been moved for safekeeping.
The 11-tonne arch was placed in the small park directly outside of New York’s city hall, in the heart of the financial district. The park is usually occupied by tourists visiting city hall and the nearby World Trade Center memorial and office workers on their lunch breaks. The arch is not roped off, allowing visitors to walk under it and touch it.
Palmyra itself, a former trade hub and major tourist site before the war, was located in central Syria, and its surrounding area was largely barren desert. But in New York, the arch is surrounded by ultra-modern skyscrapers and architectural landmarks including One World Trade Center and the Woolworth building.
In a recent statement, Roger Michael, the Executive Director of the IDA, drew parallels between the destruction of Palmyra’s landmarks and the violence that has marred London and New York’s landscape.
“It is our hope that the arch, itself an icon of destruction and rebirth, will remind visitors of both the universality of suffering and the indomitable human capacity to rebuild what has been lost.”
The IDA’s dedication to preservation, means it ultimately intends to return the arch to Palmyra.
At the unveiling, deputy mayor Alicia Glen said, the arch “was a symbol that we will not stand for acts of terrorists, we will not stand to have people murdered and thrown out of their countries.”
Just two days earlier, there was a bombing in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood injuring 29 people. “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,” Glen added.
Maamoun Abdelkarim, Syria’s director of antiquities, has vowed that the famous monuments destroyed by Isis will be rebuilt from the rubble.