Bull of Nimrud that was destroyed by Isis is recreated in Rome

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A replica of the bull of Nimrud is exhibited in the Colosseum. Photograph: Gabriel Stabinger

The human-headed winged bull of Nimrud that was destroyed by Islamic State last year will come back to life for tourists visiting Rome’s Colosseum in a new exhibit designed to ignite a debate on the preservation of cultural heritage.

Rising From the Ashes: Ebla, Nimrud, Palmyra will feature the replicas of three ancient works from Iraq and Syria reconstructed in Italy using 3D printers and robots. The project was overseen by archeologists and art historians.

Alongside the winged bull, the exhibit will feature a reconstruction of the Temple of Bel at Palmyra, which was considered Syria’s most important site, and a room of the State Archives of Ebla. All three have been rebuilt to their original dimensions.

Organisers said the purpose of the exhibit was to raise public awareness about the destruction of cultural heritage, and try to promote the protection of sites and monuments from war and environmental catastrophes.

A replica of the ceiling from the Temple of Bel in Palmyra. Photograph: Gabriel Stabinger

“We do not accept the return of iconoclasm, meaning the slaughter of heritage alongside the murder of innocent people,” said Francesco Rutelli, one of the exhibit’s curators who previously served as culture minister and mayor of Rome.

Rutelli said the exhibit showed how technology – in this case, huge 3D printers – could be used to revive cultural sites that have been severely or completely destroyed.

“But it also requires a human touch. When you see the reproductions, it is something that is not cold, not frozen, but somehow gives a real idea of what has been destroyed,” he said.

In reconstructing such works, he added, it was important that replicas be made “in a scientific way”, so they do not resemble amusement parks like Disneyland, or Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

Rome is not the only city where such reconstructions are being exhibited. A recreation of Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph was unveiled in New York last month, a year after Isis destroyed the original structure.

The destruction committed by Isis has been condemned by activists and historians and described as a war crime by Unesco. Nimrud was the capital of the Neo-Assyrian empire, which dominated the Middle East from 900 to 612 BC. The works that were destroyed are believed to date back to the 13th century BC.