The Crossroads of the World has no dearth of unusual sights, but this April, something unusual with a current-affairs edge will be gracing Times Square: A reproduction of the main gate to the 2,000 year-old Temple of Bel, located in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. Last summer, everybody’s favorite bad guys of the moment, ISIS (or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria if you’re not into the whole brevity thing) destroyed the Greco-Roman edifice because it symbolized “idolatry.”
The 50-foot-tall arch of the entry way is pretty much all that remained, and in a gesture of defiance to ISIS’s enthusiasm for extreme revisionism, UNESCO has teamed up with the Institute for Digital Archeology to mount 3D-printed replicas of the gate here and in London’s Trafalgar Square as part of World Heritage Week. Dedicated in 32 AD to the Mesopotamian god Bel, the temple complex was a major tourist attraction in the years before the Syrian Civil War, drawing some 150,000 visitors annually.
Besides blowing up archaeological treasures, ISIS has also been doing a brisk business in selling them as a way of funding their caliphate, which recently suffered a major military setback when the Iraqi Army recaptured the ISIS-held town of Ramadi with the help of American air strikes.