3D Laser Scanning Services: Disputes Erupt Over Parthenon Marbles
Two hundred years ago, the Seventh Earl of Elgin purchased the thirty-two sculptures, now 2,500 years old, from Turkish Settlers in Athens, Greece. That was the last time these ancient artifacts were seen in Greece. After centuries of debate, it has become a major topic for the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin (ICRCP).
Despite the resolution issued by the ICRCP in 2021 that Greece has a “legitimate and rightful demand” for the return of the sculptures, both sides are still without resolution. Recent ideas of using 3d laser scanning services to assist have only inflamed the discussions.
The Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA), a partnership between Harvard University and Oxford University, has submitted a proposal to use 3d scanning services to create near-identical replicas of the thirty-two sculptures. The 3d laser scans would create digital images that would be fed into a robotic sculpting machine that would chisel the replicas from the marble of the same origin quarry as the originals.
This would allow the originals to be returned to Athens while still allowing visitors to the British Museum to have the opportunity to see the marble sculptures. While this seems like a logical solution, it is anything but without additional debate.
Potential Issue of Provenance?
There is no debate regarding the difference in provenance with a replica. However, with the increase in technologies surrounding 3d scanning services, digital archaeologists can now recreate works of art down to a detail that hand could never recreate.
How does this issue fit in with the Eglin Marbles? Two reasons. One, the two hundred years of impeccable care the British Museum has put forth in preserving the artifacts. Two, there are some opinions that despite the incredible detail 3d scanning technologies can add to the replicas, viewing anything but the original works is akin to promoting forgery.
The Resolution? Are 3D Laser Scanning Services The Answer?
3d scanning services have undoubtedly provided incredible advancements in many fields. We still may be years away from a resolution to the debate on the Elgin Sculptures. Still, that resolution could lay the groundwork for the people to have the ability to appreciate the heritage and history of worldwide civilizations with unmatched ease. As the technology surrounding 3d scanning services improves even more and the IDA continues to grow its catalog of digital scans of ancient sculptures, artifacts, and fossils, we may shift our thinking regarding the term “replica.”