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Lion of Mosul, destroyed by the Islamic State, recreated using 3D tools

Can history return using 3D equipment? Or will a part of history be gone, no matter the accuracy? Accurate or not, the recreation of artefacts lost to time can offer a glimpse into the past, if only a fragment. Google Arts & Culture unveiled a collaboration with Imperial War Museums (IWM) and Historic England, exploring how war impacts culture around the world. As part of the collaboration, 3D tools were used to recreate destroyed items, such as the Lion of Mosul.

As part of IWM’s Culture Under Attack, it includes the loan of a 3D-printed recreation of the Lion of Mosul – an ancient statue destroyed by ISIS in 2015, remade for today. Neat.

The Lion of Mosul was a colossal Assyrian guardian lion from about 860 BCE, which once stood at the entrance of the Temple of Ishtar in Nimrud, Iraq. The statue was destroyed while on display at the Mosul Museum.

Chance Coughenour, Preservation Lead at Google Arts & Culture, said, “Imperial War Museums and Historic England are two of our earliest partners, and it’s been an amazing experience working alongside them on this highly topical project. It’s been heart-breaking to see the destruction of so many unique artefacts and archeological sites in recent years, however, Culture Under Attack and the What Remains exhibition highlight the potential of technology – both in terms of digitally preserving culture and telling these amazing stories in engaging new ways.” 

The recreation is, in part, to profile the Google Arts & Culture online platform, digitising artworks and artefacts while divulging heir stories. As a history buff, this is a great use of tech which should spread further.

Credit: Google.


Recreations are a natural part of spreading history and information. Why cart a massive statue across the globe if it can be recreated at home? Not everyone can access a museum, so democratising culture means anyone can access historically and culturally significant items for study. Additionally, museums are filled with artefacts which, arguably, should be returned to their home nations. (I am looking at you, British Museum).

The main counter-argument will always be that it is not real. No recreation will ever match the same, lost item. But for the sake of preserving what was lost, as a figure of the past, it can be enough for those who want to learn more. For that reason, 3D tools is an excellent way forward.

The next step is whether there is a place for these models to be seen via AR or VR. Speaking to the BBC, I voiced that I am more doubtful about AR and art. But as a gimmick, it can be a fun thing to do.