Inside the Semitic Museum of Harvard University, assistant Director Joseph Greene (right) of the Semitic Museum, and Adam Aja, Assistant Curator of Collections, Semitic Museum, discuss the creation of a digital 3-D model of a lion statue dating to the Nuzi period.
Image credit Kris Snibbe, Harvard Staff Photographer

Ishaan Tharoor, writing for TIME Style, reports that –

…3,300 years ago, when a rampaging army ransacked the town of Nuzi whose ruins now lie southwest of the modern day Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The conquerors—the Assyrians, one of the more bullying empires of Mesopotamian antiquity—overran the town’s defenses, burned down its buildings, slaughtered or enslaved its inhabitants and looted its temples. What was not plundered was left, in many instances, smashed, tossed down wells and discarded in the smoldering wreck of the city. And there it lay for millennia until a team of archaeologists spearheaded by a number of American universities excavated the site in 1930 and unearthed its broken treasures.

Among the finds at Yorghan Tepe (the modern day name for the site where Nuzi once stood) were a set of lions thought to have flanked an installation of a statue of the goddess Ishtar. These and other objects were, under the colonial administration of the time, divided between local authorities and foreign archaeologists. The remains of one lion—fragments of its hindquarters and front paws—were claimed by Harvard’s Semitic Museum, while another more intact one made its way to the University of Pennsylvania. A decade ago, the two lions were reunited when Penn allowed their statue to be sent to the Semitic Museum on loan; it’s believed the lions were once mirror images of each other (their tails move in opposite directions).

But, with UPenn now seeking the return of its lion, Harvard’s curators were left with a quandary. How could they show off the precious fragments they had to visitors without the more intact version also on display? The solution was 3-D printing. Learning Sites, an outside company that does 3-D scans of archaeological artifacts, had already been at Harvard helping the Semitic Museum digitize some of its ancient wares. The company was then drafted in to help scan UPenn’s lion and digitally model a new physical copy to which Harvard can affix its fragments.

Full article here.