Team of Scots to map world UNESCO sites in 3D


By Rory Reynolds

A TEAM of Scots scientists are preparing for a project to map famous landmarks around the world – in case they are lost to natural disasters or climate change.

The six-strong team from Historic Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art will use the latest laser technology to make 3D models of sites including Mount Rushmore and the Taj Mahal.

They will work with US non-profit group CyArk over the next five years to electronically map 500 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The group was founded by Iraqi-born American engineer Ben Kacyra, who learned of the destruction of pre-Islamic era statues by Taliban militia in March 2001.

He pioneered laser technology called Cyrax, which scans millions of separate points on an object to build up the dimensions digitally, to prevent the exact details of historic objects being lost.Along with world famous landmarks, the project will also digitally map Edinburgh’s Old Town, along with New Lanark and the Antonine Wall.


David Mitchell, director of Historic Scotland’s Technical Conservation Group, said that scanning some sites like Mount Rushmore might be tricky.

He said: “We staged a recce at Mount Rushmore last year. From a scanning point of view it’s quite straightforward.

“But it’s the logistics – there’s no road up to the heads.

“There’s a big scree slope at the bottom where they blasted the rock off and it’s quite dangerous – I took a tumble down the hill when I was there and ended up in hospital, which wasn’t fun.

“The tricky bit about Mount Rushmore is getting the kit up the hill and moving it about into position, but you have to deal with things like that.


“When we’re finished constructing 3D models we can drape high-definition over them, allowing us to fly round, through and under the digital structures.

“It’s similar to gaming technology but ultra-real.

“When the scan is finished people will be able to walkthrough it virtually.

“That goes for anywhere on the 500 list – as people are encouraged to travel less this could be a route for people to see the wonders of the world without leaving a carbon footprint.

“It’s about recording history and safeguarding the future.”

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