The need for better historical preservation has never been more evident – archaeological sites are constantly threatened by nature and human activity alike. The Roman city of Pompeii, buried in 79AD by a volcanic eruption, has been an invaluable source of information but is at constant risk of damage from exposure to the thousands of tourists that routinely visit, and the increasing fragility of its contents. Conservation is difficult due to the expense, its size and its relative age – after all, Pompeii has been uncovered in our time for longer than it was ever lived in by the Romans!

It’s not just Pompeii either: archaeology faces major threats from geological and human forces – in 2016 an earthquake hit the city of Bagan in Myanmar, damaging hundreds of temples and the chilling events in Syria have seen the destruction of many temples in Palmyra. However, what if there was a way to “save” these sites exactly as they are so historians of the future can access them, no matter what their condition then?

“Saving” history is exactly what CyArk and others are setting out to do.

Using advanced laser scanning and photogrammetry CyArk is creating detailed digital 3D models of key archaeological sites to preserve them in their current conditions, and Google Arts & Culture is providing open access online. This isn’t the first time this type of technology has been used publicly: last year’s BBC programme Italy’s Invisible Cities made detailed scans of Naples, Florence and Venice available online too.

There’s no doubt these are exciting developments for preservation – archaeologists have already been able to use these scans to track any degradation of key sites. The hope is, used in conjunction with traditional methods, this will help preserve our history for our future.

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