Documenting Babylon: Photography, Drawings, and New Technology

By World Monuments Fund

World Monuments Fund began working with Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in 2008 to conserve the fragile archaeological remains of Babylon. This exhibit presents Babylon, one of the marvels of the cradle of civilization, through photographs, drawings, and 3D images that help conservators understand the site and are some of the tools necessary for the current work.

Conservators drafting drawings for documentation at Ishtar Gate (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Digital Documentation

Babylon presents many challenges, from the effects of time, excavated areas exposed to the elements, damage caused by military occupations, and modern encroachments. Reconstructions completed in the twentieth century frequently present problems due to the use of incompatible materials, which can cause harm to the original mud-brick structures. WMF's work also addresses preparing the site for visitors. A highlight of 2010 was digital scanning of Ishtar Gate and subsequent drawing documentation workshops, which allowed SBAH personnel to work with CyArk, a nonprofit dedicated to digital documentation tools for cultural heritage. Project team members gained skills necessary to complete brick-by-brick drawings for condition assessments to define conservation plans and identify changes necessary to improve water management at Ishtar Gate.

Ishtar Gate site plan (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Ishtar Gate Elevation E010 (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Digital documentation provides a detailed picture of how Ishtar Gate is being affected by the elements.

Conservation work addressed immediate needs such as repointing the brick at Ishtar Gate and measuring the changing groundwater level, and its impact on masonry humidity. The project team analyzed the correlation of these factors to the conditions of the nearby Shatt al-Hillah, a branch of the Euphrates River. A weather station on site also provides valuable data on climatic conditions.

All of this information helps conservators understand the current conditions on the site and how treatments must take into consideration the realities of rainwater, groundwater, sandstorms, temperature and humidity. All of which can affect the existing historic materials and choices for conservation treatment.

Ishtar Gate, north façade (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Ishtar Gate, western façade (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Section A, Ishtar Gate (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Laser Scanning

Under the direction of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), and with support from WMF, CyArk began the compilation of detailed documentation through three-dimensional laser scans of the Ishtar Gate complex.

Section B, Ishtar Gate (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Section C, Ishtar Gate (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Section D, Ishtar Gate (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Ishtar Gate, western façade (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Based on data gathered through the comprehensive laser scan of the site's archaeological elements, the University of Florida’s Envision Heritage initiative created this brief animated fly-through of Babylon's Ishtar Gate.

Ishtar Gate Flythrough, Babylon, Iraq by World Monuments FundWorld Monuments Fund

BabylonWorld Monuments Fund

Babylon, Reconstructed

Babylon, one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, with remains dating back thousands of years, was excavated at the end of the 19th century by Robert Koldeway, a German architect.  His work continued in the early 20th century and was heralded as one of the significant discoveries of the era. Famous for its Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Babylon is also home to Ishtar Gate and the Lion of Babylon, a national icon. Babylon achieved military fame, was the capital of a vast empire, and contributed greatly to our knowledge of the ancient world through the study of the Code of Hammurabi, an eighteenth-century B.C. set of laws by which the society was ruled. The power of Babylon as a symbol of strength never waned and during the reign of Saddam Hussein, much reconstruction took place at the site. An opulent palace was built on a hill overlooking the ancient city by Saddam Hussein, connecting the legacy of the past to his rule of Iraq.

Reconstructed Palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, Babylon (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Based on the archaeological remains exposed during campaigns from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries, the cluster of highly speculative modern reconstructions pictured below are meant to recreate historic building types of Babylon.

Above is the reconstructed Southern Palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, as seen from the northeast, showing the adjoining Processional Street to the left and part of the inner city walls to the lower right.

The reconstructed Southern Palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, as seen from the northeast, showing the adjoining Processional Street to the left and part of the inner city walls to the lower right. (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Babylon (-2300)World Monuments Fund

Credits: Story

World Monuments Fund is pleased to work with our ongoing partners, CyArk, University of Florida's Envision Heritage and others who address cultural heritage conservation.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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