The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XLII-2/W15
22 Aug 2019
 | 22 Aug 2019


G. Fangi

Keywords: Syrian Threatened Cultural Heritage, Spherical Photogrammetry

Abstract. What remains of Cultural Heritage in Syria? And in particular in Aleppo? Aleppo, according to UNESCO, is the oldest city in the world. The first settlements date back to 12,000 years ago, the first evidence of the city to 8,000. The A. visited the city in October 2018 at the invitation of the Syrian Trust for Development. He previously went to Syria for a photographic tour in 2010. It was a unique opportunity to document some noticeable buildings and monuments, later on affected by the war. When the war began in 2012, the A. retrieved the photographs and gave them to his students, who then ran some 28 projects of Cultural Heritage items. They are small monuments or small projects, neither complete not very accurate, but sometimes they are unique for the monuments that have already disappeared. In 2017 the book Reviving Palmyra was published, whose main author is the Finnish archaeologist Minna Silver. The book shows the results of the surveys of some monuments of Palmyra, including the Roman theater, the temple of Bel, the triumphal arch and the funerary tower of Al-Habel. The A. made an exibition of the these projects in Ancona, Italy, and produced a video of the exibition, which was then published online. Reme Sackr saw the video and invited the A. to visit Syria. She is a Syrian woman of the Syrian Trust for Development, a Syrian NGO for reconstruction of Syria. She is responsible for the Living Heritage Program inside the Trust, in practice responsible for the reconstruction and the restoration of the monuments in Syria. So in October 2018 the A. went to Aleppo, Syria, for a second time. The present paper shows some results and comparisons for same monuments before and after the war. The objects of the survey are some parts of the Citadel walls, the entrance tower of the Citadel, the southern tower, one mosque and the minaret of the Citadel mosque. One of the first monuments to be restored will be the minaret of the Great Omoyyad Mosque in Aleppo. Some monuments, the minority, are apparently in good condition, seemingly untouched by the war. Some are badly damaged and unsafe. They must first be made sade and subsequently restored. Finally, other monuments – and these are the majority – no longer exist because they have been destroyed to their very foundations. It seems that the war, besides the population, has particularly targeted monuments, perhaps because they represent the soul and history of a people and a country. For them the problem arises whether to reconstruct or not, and in case of reconstruction with which instruments and with which technique, if there are previous findings. This is precisely the case of the minaret. Here they will try to reconstruct the monument where it was, as it was and with the same materials, with possibly the same blocks in the same position they were in. For this task, however, their identification is necessary. The minaret is the most important monument in Syria, because it is the symbol of the country. It was built in 1092, and its restoration was completed in 2007. A special commission now follows the restoration work. It is composed by public, religious and technical-scientific authorities. They are the same university professors who carried out the restoration of 2007 and now curate the reconstruction. Work began in February 2018. The minaret stones were placed in the square of the mosque. Using a crane they raised the stones one by one, then photographed them from all positions. They then proceeded to the identification stage. A computer program was created in MATHLAB® which could carry out the first automatic selection of 6–8 possible candidates. The operator then manually selected the choosen one. Of the 1300 stones of the external face, 40 % have already been recognized. The high-resolution photographs of the A. of 2010 will help the identification. It is hoped to reach 70 %. Many blocks are no longer usable because they are broken, being limestone and therefore fragile. They no longer have the necessary resistance and will have to be replaced. A museum will be set up for the reconstruction of the minaret and the mosque. It is hoped to complete the work in two years. The surveying technique used by the A. is Spherical Photogrammetry. He published in 2018 The book of Spherical Photogrammetry a collection of related papers and experiences. This technique has been set up by the A. since 2006. It is based on spherical panoramas. These are cartographic representations on planes of spheres, on which the partially overlapping photographs taken from a single shooting point, are projected. Its main feature is the shooting speed. The technique is very much suitable for heritage documentation and the A. hopes to transfer it to the students of the local faculty of architecture. In this last mission, especially for the interiors, the A. made extensive use of Panono, a multi-image camera capable of covering 360°. These results prove undoubtedly that photogrammetry is an essential instrument for the 3D documentation and digital preservation of cultural heritage.