The Giant Buddha Figures in Afghanistan: Virtual Reality for a Physical Reconstruction?
More than ten years after the destruction of the giant Buddha figures in Bamiyan (Afghanistan) the emergency stabilization works for the preservation of the physical remains at the site have progressed. The condition of the heavily fractured Buddha niches has been documented using the latest high-resolution laser scanning technologies. Rock stabilization measures have been realized successfully and the destroyed figures have been reconstructed virtually using old photogrammetric documentation showing the Buddha figures before their destruction. High-level scientific methods in cultural heritage preservation focus on the documentation and analysis of the physical material itself while the immaterial aspects of the tangible heritage have to be addressed carefully also. The increased use of digital technologies has opened up new possibilities for visual exploration and the metric analysis of objects. Apart from the question of how far a virtual reconstruction of the destroyed structures can solve epistemological research interests it has to be carefully considered how the understandable desire of the local population for the emotional re-experience of their lost monuments is addressed. Questions are repeatedly raised as to whether or not the physical reconstruction of the figures should be pursued. While UNESCO does not consider a total reconstruction of the Buddha figures to be feasible at the moment, the discussion of how to preserve the physical remains of the destroyed figures in the long-term is far from concluded. The question of how far the reassembly of remaining fragments in their original position is adequate for the long-term preservation of the physical remains of the destroyed Buddha figures is still not answered satisfactorily.
KeywordsVirtual reality Reconstruction Preservation Cultural heritage Bamiyan
This work is supported by the German National Science Foundation (DFG) within the research cluster UMIC-Ultra High Speed Mobile Information and Communication established under the excellence initiative of the German government. We thank our colleagues Ralf Klamma and Mathias Jarke in the Information Science Department at RWTH Aachen University for many fruitful discussions. We also thank Prof. Minoru Inaba of the Institute for Research in Humanities at Kyoto University for making the contour line drawing of the giant Buddha available.
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