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How technology is preserving the past

ICONEM has worked on a project in Mes Aynak in Afghanistan.
ICONEM has worked on a project in Mes Aynak in Afghanistan. ICONEM

A Paris based start-up called ICONEM has been involved in the documentation of heritage sites which have been damaged in conflict zones like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The company, which was established in 2013, trains local architects and archaeologists modern techniques to conserve the sites.  


Yves Ubelmann is  one of the co-founders who travels to these sites. He told RFI that this is a low cost technique that produces quick and effective results for the documentation of the sites.

Some of the sites they have worked on includes the Bamiyan valley, Mes Ayanak in Afghanistan and the Umayyad Mosque in Syria and Mes Aynak in Afghanistan. They have also carried out similar work on some sites in France and Italy.

But Yves said they are now focused on heritage sites located in conflict zones as time is of essence. “If we wait more, it will be too late to conserve information about these sites,” he said.

The use of drones has proved to be a game changer. Jamie Quartermaine, who is a senior project manager at Oxford Archaeology, narrated his own experience of working in Nepal after it was struck by an earthquake about 20 years ago. 

“When I worked in Nepal with the local team, it took us nine months to record three palaces of a large complex. We covered about 20 per cent of the whole world heritage site," he said.

"With the technology we have now including the use of drones that fly over the sites rapidly, we can do the whole thing now in a space of three or four days. This means that huge areas can be covered quickly and efficiently. The key is speed. That’s what the new technology provides you,” he said.

Efforts are also being made on international level to conserve sites in conflict areas. Just two days ago, Italy and UNESCO signed an agreement to create Italian task force of Peacekeepers of Culture as well as establishing a center in Turin.

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