Many archaic statues and artifacts were destroyed by Islamic State militants and vandals when the Iraqi city of Mosul was occupied by ISIS.
Raising the city, which also suffered devastating bloodshed during that time, from the rubble will be hard work. The good news is some of the statues, which were destroyed, have been reconstructed with the help of 3D-scanners.
Two ultradetailed facsimiles of the massive stone statues known as Lamassu, will later this month start a journey from the Netherlands to take up permanent residence in Mosul.
During the Mosul occupation, the Islamic State made a spectacle of smashing Assyrian artifacts. With the Islamic State now gone from Mosul, the organizers of the Nineveh exhibition in the Netherlands, decided to send the replicas of the lamassu to Mosul.
Lamassu are believed to be protective spirits and the original statues dated back almost 3,000 years to the Assyrian empire.
Excavated statues brought to London
The two new statues are copies of two Lamassu that were originally excavated by a British archaeological expedition in the mid-19th century.
While examining Mesopotamia, the group uncovered a field of artifacts which had been buried for 2,700 years. The Lamassu found, which were imposing winged statues, once stood guard along the walls surrounding the ancient city of Nineveh, near Mosul.
The excavators brought two of the statues back to London. In 2004, the art historian Adam Lowe who heads Factum Arte, an art studio, set out to record these statues at a 300-micrometer resolution to produce copies of them for a traveling exhibition.
Lowe and his team scanned the Lamassu and relief panels and shards at the British Museum. For the Lamassu, they used a white-light scanner built by the company NUB3D.
Factum Arte’s work with these Lamassu is among the highest-resolution 3D scans ever of objects that size. But the traveling exhibition did not take place due to financial problems and the Iraq war.
However, data from the scans remained. Then, four years ago, Lucas Petit, curator at the National Museum of Antiquities in the Netherlands, started organizing an exhibition about Nineveh. He wanted to include the facsimiles in the exhibition.
Factum Arte used data from old scans
Work finally started in 2016 after Petit contacted Lowe. Factum Arte used the data from the old scans to control a milling machine that carved a dense polyurethane solid into the shape of each Lamassu.
The studio then used these models to make silicon molds in sections for the sculptures.
Faisal Jeber, director of the Gilgamesh Center for Antiquities and Heritage Protection, is eager for the facsimiles to arrive. “Lamassu have become an icon of the Mosul resurrection post-ISIS,” he says.
Mosul’s east bank is slowly returning to normal, while the west bank, which is still 60 to 80 percent destroyed, tries to re-establish basic services, such as water and electricity. It has been announced that the British Museum will hold on to the originals.
However, as products of the digital age, the facsimiles pose questions about authenticity and where they actually belong.