The Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum have been secretly scanned by digital archaeologists with the hope of creating “perfect” replicas that could one day lead to the repatriation of the originals to Greece, a report in the Daily Mail says.
According to the British tabloid, the researchers took the detailed 3D images by stealth after the museum refused a formal request.
They used technology embedded in the latest camera phones and iPads to scan half a dozen of the sculptures so the files can be used to programme a “robot sculptor” to carve replicas.
Experts from the Oxford-based Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) hope marble blocks can be created with metal chisels, in much the same way the sculptures were created by the ancient Greek architect Phidias around 447–438 BC.
Roger Michel, ISA’s executive director, scanned the sculptures after being ignored by security staff. He and his colleague Dr Alexy Karenowska, the ISA’s technical director, used a combination of Lidar and photogrammetry to create the 3D scans, the Daily Mail reports.
Pressure piles on Britain for the return of the Parthenon Marbles
The British paper notes that the UK Government has recently been under increasing pressure to return the marbles, with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis last year insisting that they were “stolen.”
Appealing to Boris Johnson’s background as a classicist, Mitsotakis told him he was “a true philhellene” – while insisting the Greek government did not consider the marbles question to be a “footnote” that could be forgotten or overlooked.
Johnson said, however, that any decision on returning them has to be made by the British Museum.
“The Prime Minister said that he understood the strength of feeling of the Greek people on this issue, but reiterated the UK’s longstanding position that this matter is one for the trustees of the British Museum,” a Downing Street spokesperson said after the meeting.
Since then, an Italian museum returned a piece of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece adding further pressure on Britain.
The “Fagan fragment” returned to Greece, on loan from the Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum in Palermo, with a view of permanent repatriation.
The fragment, which belongs to the eastern frieze of the Parthenon, shows the seated gods of Olympus watching the annual Panathenaic Procession in honor of the city’s patron, the goddess Athena. The procession included the carrying of a golden veil to Athena’s statue in the Parthenon.