The Statue of Idrimi

The British Museum
London, UK

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Factum Foundation´s Pedro Miró and Otto Lowe recorded the statue of Idrimi, a 3,500 year-old refugee from Aleppo (Syria), over two consecutive days at the British Museum. Idrimi fled Aleppo as a young man, and after seven years in exile, became King of the ancient city of Alalakh, in Southern Turkey. King Idrimi made a statue of himself, inscribed with 104 lines of cuneiform narrating his biography as well as a curse to anyone who might attempt to destroy the statue.

Statue of Idrimi, King of Alalakh

Carved in cuneiform, the statue was incribed with Idridmi´s biography in the 16th century BC

Recording the statue of King Idrimi at the British Museum

The statue was recorded using two different recording systems to complement the quality of each dataset. The results of the data gathered can be seen in the following 3D model :

Idrimi was first scanend with the Breuckmann smartSCAN 3D, a white light scanner, which records at sub-millimeter resolution. This system projects light patterns onto the surface of an object as two cameras capture and extract 3D information from their projection. The object´s surface is scanned in sections, which are then merged together using OPTOCAT software. As it scans, the system tracks all recording distances, maintaining the scale of the information gathered.

Scanning the statue of Idrimi with the Breuckmann smartSCAN 3D

The statue of Idrimi was also recorded with close-range photogrammetry, a technique that extracts 3D surface information from an object by taking multiple photographs of the object from different angles. A total of 2500 photographs, each weighing about 8000 x 7000 pixels, were taken with a Canon 5DSR camera to record Idrimi. The quality of both the photogrammetric data and the resulting 3D model depend on the recording proximity to the object, as well as on the level of definition of the captured images. Unlike scanning systems, photogrammetry does not measure scale- the objects must therefore be recorded with known physical reference (i.e. a ruler).

3D render of Idrimi's biography

3D render of Idrimi's biography

Comparison of two recording techniques: 3D model of the top section of the Idrimi sculpture recorded with the Breuckmann Smartscan 3D

3D model of data recorded with photogrammetry

The model obtained with photogrammetry is as accurate as the structured light model up to 200 microns, meaning that the maximum both models diverge is 0.2 mm. On screen both datasets appear similar but if routed the data recorded nearest to the object is more precise. In certain situations, cultural objects can be recorded with photogrammetry at very close-range producing highly accurate 3D models and physical objects. This reflects the extent to which photogrammetric processing software has increased in its capacity to process thousands of photographs in just a few hours, becoming a viable alternative to more elaborate and expensive scanning systems.

Specialists in cuneiform script studied the accuracy of the inscription on the routed statue of IdrimiThe 3D print was finalized following the suggestions of experts in cuneiform script

 In-house conservator Silvia Alvarez applies dried powder pigments for aging the piece.

Factum Foundation donated a facsimile of the statue of Idrimi to UK charity Making Light, and will be part of its exhibition Syria Past and Present. Making Light is dedicated to sharing stories about Syrian culture, heritage and people.

Factum Foundation donated the facsimile to Making LightDetails of the finalized facsimile

Details of the finalized facsimileThe facsimile of the statue of idrimi at Lambeth Palace in London


2017 Factum Foundation,The Re-materialisation of Idrimi (publication)
2017 Making Light´s publication dedicated to Idrimi and Syrian refugees (compilation)
2017 British Museum, Idrimi, the 3,500-year-old refugee (blog)
2017 Current Archaeology, A Royal Refugee: How 21st-century science came to the aid of a 16th-century BC exile (article)

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