Replica Of Ancient Arch Destroyed By ISIS Is Now At City Hall Park
Earlier this year, one of the Internet’s myriad conspiracy corners was abuzz with rumors that the 2,000 year old Temple of Baal would be rebuilt as a house of worship in Times Square. These rumors were nonsense but not without some vague connection to the truth—on Monday, a replica of the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra, the entrance to the temple, was unveiled in City Hall Park.
The actual Arch of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Syria, was destroyed last year in a terrorist attack by the Islamic State. It was originally the entryway to the Temple of Baal, but was later converted to a Christian church and, eventually, an Islamic mosque. In August 2015, ISIS militants destroyed the temple with explosives and beheaded the archeologist who had served as its caretaker for 40 years, claiming that pre-Islamic religious objects or structures are “sacrilegious.”
A 3D-printed replica of the arch, created shortly after the original was destroyed, is now on display in City Hall Park where it will stand until the end of this week before being moved to Dubai. It was previously installed in London’s Trafalgar Square. The replica arch was created by the Institute for Digital Archeology as part of the Million Image Database, a joint venture between the Institute and UNESCO which gives 3D cameras to volunteers so they can photograph and preserve threatened sites in Middle Eastern and North African conflict zones.
Some particularly vehement critics feared that reconstructing the temple would lead to ritualistic “child sacrifice, sexual orgies, and homosexual debauchery,” and presumably the end of the free world as we know it. So far, none of the above has happened, but we’ll be sure to update if that changes.
For IDA and the Million Image Database, the replicated arch is a symbol of the world’s resiliency in the face of terror.
“We hope to signal the potential for triumph of human ingenuity over violence and celebrate images from the past that unite the cultures they represent,” said Roger Michel, the IDA’s executive director. “We also hope that visitors to the installations will consider the role of physical objects in defining their history and weigh carefully the question of where precisely history and heritage reside.”
In a statement before the unveiling Michel compared London, New York, and Syria’s resilience. “It is hoped that the arch, itself an icon of destruction and rebirth, will remind visitors of both the universality of suffering and the indomitable human capacity to rebuild what has been lost,” he said.
“Everything that was great about Palmyra is what is great about New York City,” Michel said at the unveiling.