Palmyra – The Race to Restoration

During the 10 months of the brutal iconoclastic occupation of ISIS, Palmyra has witnessed the destruction of many of its precious historical architectural artefacts. While realm of Queen Zenobia and her majestic temples may have been subjected to severe damages, there is still hope.


Photography by Joseph Eid


Satellite imagery – Before and After the destruction of the Temple of Bel

Few days after its liberation by the Syrian Government in March, the discussion in regards to its current state and the potential restoration efforts have become an important matter in the international community. Will the new Palmyra adhere the philosophies of John Ruskin or will it take the Violette-Le-Duc’s route? Should the ruins be left in its current state or will there be an attempt to restore it to its pre-war glory? Whatever decision will be made, controversy will surely follow. While the current state is in dire need of a thorough condition assessment before the rebuilding of the UNESCO World Heritage site takes place, a new method of restoration has emerged in the digital form.


Drone Aerial Imagery by Iconem


Drone Aerial Imagery by Iconem

Using drones, photogrammetry and conventional 3D making tools, organizations such as ICONEM, based in France, have collaborated with the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, to lead the survey. By documenting the current damages in 3D as well as its pre-war conditions, ICONEM’s strategies can offer an invaluable insight to architects and archaeologists in the international scene at the comfort of their own homes and institutions and propose effective solutions for restoration. Many of ICONEM’s works can be found in Sketchfab, a website that allows its users and visitors to display and share 3D content online with ease. With the increasing news coverage and heritage awareness campaigns, some of their works have received over 19,000 views. The Fakhr-Al-Din Citadel of Palmyra, which dates back to the 13th century, can also be seen on Sketchfab through comparative shots in regards to the damages it has sustained.


Before and After by Iconem

Palmyra Citadel Comparison by Iconem on Sketchfab

The Temple of Bel was founded in 32 A.D and was considered one of the best preserved ruins in the archaeological complex. The 3D depicts the aftermath of the ISIS occupation.

Temple of Bel by Iconem on Sketchfab


The 3D Sculpted Palmyra Arch at Trafalgar Square, London

In addition to the digital restoration efforts, the Institute of Digital Archaeology has unveiled its Vertex Modelled 3D reproduction of the triumphal arch and unveiled the project at Trafalgar square on the 20th of April of 2016. While the gesture of solidarity is admirable and commendable, more efforts in regards to preventative conservation must be taken on an international scale to preserve the history of mankind. In the meantime, archaeologists and architects are working hard to archive and preserve lost heritage through digital forms.

Author: Karl Abi Karam