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Lasers & Sources

Laser pioneers lead preservation of world heritage treasures

The Observer
24 August 2009

British scientists are beginning work on a revolutionary project to record three-dimensional models of world heritage sites so that they can be re-created if they fall victim to climate change, natural disaster, war or terrorism.

The team of six from the Scottish government agency Historic Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art will team up in September with American company CyArk to shoot laser beams at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, creating a 3D model accurate to within 3mm, digitally preserving the carved faces of former presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln should archaeologists need to repair them. Funding for the Mount Rushmore project was rushed through because of concerns over the deterioration of the granite rockface.

The Scottish team's technical capabilities have already been used to create 3D models of Stirling Castle and Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, Scotland.

CyArk's ultimate aim is to create 3D models of 500 sites around the world, including the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Tikal National Park in Guatemala, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Work began this year on scanning the underworld of Rome, 170km of winding catacombs dating back two millennia, and the Zapotec capital of Monte Albán in Mexico.