LONDON, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Replicas of an arch in the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, among the last remaining parts of an ancient Palmyra, Syria, structure demolished by the Islamic State, will be erected in London and New York.
The temple has been systematically razed, with the 50-foot-tall arch among the few remaining elements of the building still standing. The temple, dedicated in 32 A.D. to the Mesopotamian god Bel, attracted 150,000 tourists per year until 2011, when the civil war in Syria began.
The full-scale replicas, now under construction in China, will stand in London's Trafalgar Square and New York's Times Square during World Heritage Week in April 2016.
The project comes after researchers from the Institute for Digital Archeology -- an effort by Harvard University, Oxford University in Britain and Dubai's Museum of the Future -- embarked on a "Million Image Project" to obtain 3D photographic data to reconstruct the arch digitally. The full-scale models are being recreated with the world's largest 3D printer, and made of stone powder and lightweight composite materials. The structures will be temporary.
They are meant to show defiance of IS attempts to erase the Middle East's pre-Islamic history and to demonstrate how new technology can be used in archeology.
"If you destroy something we can rebuild it again. The symbolic value of these sites is enormous. We are restoring dignity," Roger Michel of the IDA said.
IS regards some of Iraq and Syria's most prominent archeological treasures to be symbolic of idolatry and pre-Muslim thought. The militant group has been selling artifacts on the black market to finance its mission. To the horror of international historians and archeologists, it has also destroyed a number of significant sites in 2015, including the ancient cities of Nimud and Hatra in Iraq, and the Shagraf shrine, the St. Elian monastery, and the Palmyra Temple of Baal and Temple of Bel in Syria.