From the 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin to the city of Nimrud, ISIS has destroyed countless monuments and relics. Now archaeologists from Harvard and Oxford have teamed up with UNESCO World Heritage and the epigraphical database project at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World to launch the Million Image Database Project. Spearheaded by Oxford's Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), the campaign plans to "flood" war-torn regions with thousands of 3D cameras so people can scan and (digitally) preserve their region's historical architecture and artifacts.
By 2016, the project aims to capture one million archival-quality images of at-risk objects in areas including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, and Yemen. By 2017, the database hopes to have archived more than 20 million images - all with GPS data and dates.
"By placing the record of our past in the digital realm, it will lie for ever beyond the reach of vandals and terrorists,” IDA director Roger Michel told The Times.
"We have created a heavily modified version of an inexpensive consumer 3D camera that will permit inexperienced users to capture archival-quality scans," says the group. "The camera has the facility to upload these images automatically to database servers where they can be used for study or, if required, 3D replication. It is our intention to deploy up to 5000 of these low-cost 3D cameras in conflict zones throughout the world by the end of 2015."
Distribution is said to be the Institute's biggest challenge. It is hoped that the images will provide enough detail for some buildings and objects to be recreated with 3D printing.