In March 2017, two third-century busts from Palmyra, partially destroyed by ISIS, have been returned to Syria after being restored in Italy using 3D printing technology.

The two works, of a man and a woman, were damaged with blows by a hammer during the time when ISIS controlled the city of Palmyra in 2015.

The restoration of the busts is being seen as a tribute to an archaeologist, Khaled al-As’ad, who was gruesomely murdered by ISIS after refusing to reveal the location of hidden, valuable antiquities.

A team of five restorers worked for a month to mend the busts, giving special attention to the faces. In one instance the face had been destroyed, but was recreated using a synthetic nylon powder and a 3D printer, and attached to the bust using powerful magnets. This is the first time such a technique has been used in a restoration.

The busts, which were on view at a UNESCO-sponsored exhibition at the Coliseum in Rome, are currently in an undisclosed location in Syria, and will return to Damascus when the city is deemed safe.

“What the Islamic State has destroyed, we have rebuilt. Through culture, we also wage an ideological battle,” said one official.

Christopher Schreck