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UAE Inaugurates Digital Archaeology Exhibition at the UN Headquarters, Unveils New 3D-Printed Monument

November 24, 2017

The UAE has officially inaugurated the Digital Archaeology Exhibition “The Spirit in the Stone” in the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City. The pioneering initiative saw the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) partner up with the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations and the Institute of Digital Archaeology at the University of Oxford.

The project seeks to preserve the cultural heritage and archaeological sites of the region – especially those threatened with destruction or vandalism – by documenting them and then replicating them using 3D-printing technology. At the inauguration event, the Foundation unveiled a newly created, with 3D technology, replica of the rare Statue of Athena, which joins the replica of Palmyra’s historic Arch of Triumph, the gateway to the ancient Syrian city that was destroyed by ISIS terrorists.

His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence and DFF’s Deputy Managing Director, said: “The UAE has always called for preserving the cultural heritage of nations and peoples, firmly believing that a region’s future is closely connected to saving its history and civilization. The UAE’s joint efforts with leading global government entities and academies to replicate the archaeological treasures of the Arab world reflects our government’s commitment to preserving history as an inspiration for future generations, and a solid foundation upon which we can build a better future for our region.”

“Our Arab and Islamic civilization is facing the greatest threat in its history with deliberate attempts to erase its glorious past and achievements, and it is our duty to preserve it,” H.E. Al Olama added. “We chose the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria as a starting point for us and we are working to recreate its treasures that were lost, looted or destroyed. It is one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the Middle East, boasting a long and rich history as a corridor for both Eastern and Western cultures. This ambitious digital project revives Palmyra’s historical role and reminds the world that great civilizations do not die.”

H.E. Al Olama attended the inauguration ceremony of the Digital Archaeology Exhibition “The Spirit in the Stone” alongside H.E. Saud Al Shamsi, Deputy Permanent Representative of the UAE Mission to the United Nations, H.E. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Maria Luiza Viotti the Chef de Cabinet to UN Secretary General H.E. António Guterres and H.E. Sebastiano Cardi, President of the Security Council for the month of November 2017 and Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN.

“The Digital Archaeology Exhibition reflects the UAE’s commitment to building global partnerships that work to preserve the history and civilization of peoples around the world,” said Saud Al Shamsi. “The Emirates has already recreated the historic gateway to Palmyra, and today, we present a new masterpiece, all the while pushing for new reconstruction and restoration projects. This reiterates the UAE’s message and dedication to the greater good of humanity as a whole. The UAE leadership seeks to strengthen its cooperation with leading international institutions to work on projects that benefit the whole of humanity and provide creative and productive environments for future generations.”

Roger Michel, IDA Founder and Executive Director said: “As the preeminent global symbol of international cooperation indeed, itself an iconic monument to peace, the United Nations is the perfect place to unveil our latest collaboration with the Dubai Future Foundation, a reconstruction of Palmyra’s famous Statue of Athena. For thousands of years, Athena was synonymous with reason, refuge and the rule of law all of the same values on which that historic institution was built. Like the Triumphal Arch before it, which has traveled the world and been visited by more than six million people, destroyed by extremists, embodies the international community’s commitment to reversing the ravages of intolerance and ignorance. We are proud to gather with world leaders and our colleagues at the Dubai Future Foundation to celebrate humanity’s commitment to that noble aspiration.”

Arch of Palmyra and Statue of Athena

The Digital Archaeology Exhibition “The Spirit in the Stone” is part of a strategic partnership between the Dubai Future Foundation and the Institute of Digital Archeology at the University of Oxford in the UK. The global project aims to document archaeological sites around the greater Middle East region with 3D photography, with the goal of recreating them using 3D-printing technology.
The exhibition revealed, for the first time, a replica of an ancient sculpture that was partially destroyed in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. Known as the Statue of Athena, this artifact is one of the most important archaeological finds dating back to the pre-Islamic era in the city. Archaeologists had spotted the statue near the Arch of Triumph, where it was noticed that it had lost its head and raised right arm.

The model, which was built as a replica of the original statue, would form the basis for the revival of many sculptures that were partially or destroyed using 3D imaging and printing technology. Furthermore, visitors to the exhibition will be able to discover the process that was followed to rebuild Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph, the most important historical relic in the city.

Strategic Partnerships

The restoration of the Palmyra Arch is the first scientific and cultural undertaking of its kind; it was the fruit of global cooperation and research efforts, which brought together the most important archaeologists and technology experts in the world.

The Arch has been displayed in several cities around the world, including London, New York, Dubai and the city of Arona in Italy. The replica attracted an audience of more than six million people in these cities, while more than 50 accompanying events and seminars took place on the sidelines, featuring more than 120 influential international experts.

Made of marble, the replica is roughly two-thirds the size of the original Arch, measuring 5.5 meters in height and weighing 11 tons. The replica has won the Public Engagement with Research Award, sponsored by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

In addition to the Palmyra Arch and the Statue of Athena, the Digital Archaeology Exhibition includes a presentation on the Dubai Future Foundation and its strategic partnership with UNESCO, the Institute of Digital Archaeology at the University of Oxford, and the universities of Oxford and Harvard.