Around the World in 80 Models: Bamiyan Valley

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Hop on board as we continue our journey Around the World in 80 Models! We began our itinerary at Sketchfab headquarters in New York and are working our way through Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, South America, and North America. To catch up on past destinations, check out the rest of the Around the World in 80 Models series.

This week we meet up with ICONEM in Afghanistan, where they show us how they contributed to efforts to document the valley’s rock carvings, which have been systematically destroyed by the Taliban.

Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan: Blasted Buddha

ICONEM is a young Paris based start-up focused on 3D reconstruction and analysis of endangered archaeological sites, which are part of our common heritage. Our teams are sent on the ground in order to prevent destructions caused by conflicts, looting or natural disasters. In this way, we can train local scientists as well as archeologists and help them document their heritage.

In March 2001, the Bamiyan Buddhas were dynamited by the Taliban, provoking profound and widespread revulsion. Those statues, carved in high-relief on a cliff, were indeed jewels of the world’s cultural heritage. They were erected during the VI-VIIth centuries and rediscovered by European travelers in the XIXth century. Two of the three standing Buddhas were located in the Bamiyan valley. They were the tallest ones, and were 53 and 38 meters high respectively. The Buddha of Kakrak, located 4 kilometers south-east of Bamiyan Valley, was the smallest one, being only 10 meters high.

In 2012, UNESCO asked ICONEM to evaluate the state of preservation of three archaeological sites located in Bamiyan valley, Afghanistan: Shahr-e Zohak, Kakrak and Shahr-e Gholghola. Given the fragility and poor accessibility of the archaeological remains, our acquisition technique, which is based on Parrot drones, was the best way to 3D digitalise these sites in a safe and effective manner.

During this mission, ICONEM performed a scan of Kakrak’s cliff face, including the alcove in which the buddha of Kakrak had been carved. This allowed us to produce this 3D model, where the contours of the alcove delineate the silhouette of the missing statue. Even though the Buddha is partly destroyed, the cliff face remains a notable site, marked by the presence of the statue’s remains and of towers carved in the cliff.

Upon completion of this mission, ICONEM provided UNESCO with a thorough report, including plans and elevations of all three sites. The whole site of Bamiyan, which houses more than 700 caves in all shapes and sizes, is now listed as UNESCO world heritage.

To see more of ICONEM’s models here on Sketchfab, check out their profile!

About the author

Abby & Néstor

Abby and Néstor are Sketchfab Masters.
Abby Crawford, Ph.D. is trained in and passionate about Roman Archaeology and works as a freelance artifact illustrator and 3D scanner in California.
Néstor F. Marqués is a virtual Heritage & cultural diffusion researcher, and an enthusiast of ancient Rome’s culture.

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