Will Palmyra rise like the Phoenix?

Efforts to reconstruct the devastated ancient Syrian city are on.

Artists and technologists are working to raise the destroyed ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, now that the Islamic State militants have been driven out of the city after three weeks of intense fighting with Russian forces playing a big role in the battle.

But the race now could be between various players and nations who scramble to do something for saving the ruins for posterity. With British and Italian players, there are also the Russians who are possibly seen more favourably by the Syrians, after having stepped in to save the country from IS, when the West had held back over Assad factor.

The Oxford Institute for Digital Archaeology founded by American Roger Michel and Italy's former culture minister Francesco Rutelli are at the forefront of plans to rebuild the city as it was before the IS destruction. They plan to use 3D printing to rebuild columns and arches "completely indistinguishable from the original" reports The Guardian.

Using volunteers across the Middle East to collect 3D photos of sites, Michel plans to create 3D models as also full-scale artefacts, sites. His cement-based printing technology can reproduce the physical look and texture and surface contours, he claims. The details can ensure the same composition of materials used in the stone as used originally.

The first demo piece will be the arch from the destroyed Temple of Bel will be unveiled in London during mid-April and travel to New York. Rutelli too plans to use digital printing to reconstruct Palmyra's fallen temples from the dust.

Russians like the director of the Hermitage museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, are not far behind. The museum houses a collection of artefacts from the city. Piotrovsky sees Russia's restoration of the temples as a project "to raise the spirit of not only the Syrian people but of all mankind". Russia has compared Palmyra's restoration with that of Leningrad after the second world war.

Syrian NGOs and artistes are working with universities to assess the site and some groups are using the latest technology to create open-access 3D computer models from photographs. Reports cite refugees in a Jordanian camp making precise, miniature models of the city down to every column in place as in photographs.

The IS took hold of the city in May last year, looted many artefacts and desecrated the city destroying monuments such as the Temple of Baalshamin, the Temple of Bel, seven tower tombs, a large Lion goddess statue and two Islamic shrines. They used its ancient theatre as a venue for public executions and also murdered the city's former antiquities chief. Palmyra was a Roman city that sat on the crossroad of many cultures.

Bamiyan Buddhas

While many including Syrians want to reconstruct Palmyra, questions are also being thrown around on the need to preserve the present ruins as a true record of its history and the dastardly act of the militants. Some believe if the Palmyra ruins are not restored and protected, it could result in the same looting that was witnessed in Iraq.

Doubts on authentic capture of the relics by 3D printing aside, the more pertinent question being raised is on the more immediate humanitarian needs of a country where fighting continues and millions remain displaced.

While Warsaw was completely rebuilt after destruction during the second world war, the more recent mutilation of the Bamiyan Buddhas by Taliban in 2001 continues to stay as rubble owing to reported dithering and discord in the Unesco.