YOUR holiday photos could help save the world’s ancient monuments from disaster, terrorism and climate change, according to a new project.

Archaeologists have launched an appeal for photographic evidence of some of the world’s most treasured sites.

The Curious Travellers project will use digital images to build computerised 3D reconstructions of damaged buildings and statues to aid reconstruction and remembrance of important cultural sites.

They will also scan older, analogue photographs to amass the largest amount of data possible.

The project began when Dr Richard Bates, a senior lecturer at St Andrews University, saw footage of Daesh attacks on ancient Palmyra in Syria last year.

Bates was working at ancient sites on Orkney at the time and his wife suggested he use his expertise to help save threatened treasures abroad. He has now joined forces with experts at Bradford and Nottingham Universities and the team has in its sights battered relics in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and beyond.

He told The National: “There will be a blueprint for when these things happen again. It will help assess what has been lost and aid in reconstruction, if they want to do that, but it will also provide visual information about what monuments looked like.

“Our heritage is important to each of us, wherever we happen to come from. We are proud of our culture – it marks each one out as unique.

“We can play a part in helping people preserve their cultures, bringing the best in cultural diversity to the forefront.”

The team has made a worldwide call for pictorial evidence of under-threat and damaged areas, and is already using data-mining technology to gather images from the internet.

But Bates says much of what exists is not archived online and pre-digital shots can also be used. It was hoped to begin the work last year to capitalise on the shockwaves created by the destruction of Palmyra, which dates back to the early second millennium BC and was recaptured by Syrian troops earlier this year.

Islamist fighters have targeted this and other sites in the Middle East, including the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan and treasured Babylonian carvings in Iraq, in a move to stamp out “idolatry”.

Professor Vincent Gaffney of Bradford University said: “The immense media coverage relating to the destruction of prominent sites in Syria hides the true scale of cultural destruction due to conflict, looting and other forms of cultural vandalism.

“Recently, specific sites have also been targeted in Libya and, if we look back over time, we can identify the widespread loss of other sites, for example those throughout Afghanistan in the early 2000s where the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed.”

Bates also hopes to document areas under threat of conflict and climate change. He said: “We are going to trawl and scrape the web but there is probably lots that is not on there and we need people to send it to us.

“The project takes in a monument’s setting in the landscape, as well as the monument itself.

“We will never be able to physically rebuild all the monuments impacted in recent conflicts but we hope to do more than preserve their memory through this project.

“We hope that worldwide people will come together and respond with their images.”

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