How 3D Technology Is Saving World Heritage Sites

In March 2001, months before the horrific events of 9/11 put the Taliban on most Americans’ radar, I watched with horror as a group of Afghan extremists rode through the jagged Hindu Kush along the ancient Silk Road. They stopped in the Bamiyan Valley, a lush basin ringed with sandstone cliffs, and began to climb a pair of stunning 100-foot high Buddhas that were carved into the sides of the valley walls 1,500 years ago.

The men were carrying loads of dynamite. Slowly, with choreographed precision, the men placed their explosives in inlets throughout the Buddha sculptures and hit their detonators. Boom. The Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed forever.

Or so everyone thought.

With the exponential advances of 3D digitization, projection, and printing, in 2015, the Buddhas of Bamiyan rose again. Thanks to new 3D projection technology that cast holograms of the original Buddhas from projectors mounted on scaffolding, a crowd of locals, playing music and staring in awe at what was just moments earlier a gaping hole in the mountain, watched as the two towering idols, lit from within, rose again for one evening. For me, this was a memorable moment, showing just how far 3D technology had come.

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