Story By: William McGee, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
Preservationists are in a race against time to save Iraq’s 1,700-year-old Arch of Ctesiphon from collapse.
The ancient arch is the world’s largest single-span vault of unreinforced brickwork and forms part of the ruins of Ctesiphon, an ancient city located 35 kilometres (22 mi)les south-east of Baghdad.
The site served as a royal capital of the Parthian and Sassanian Empires for over 800 years until the Muslim conquest of Persia in 651.
Taq Kasra, the palatial remains of which the arch forms part, is the most prominent ruin still standing at the site. However, the arch is at risk of collapse due to neglect and adverse weather conditions.
Sizeable parts of the arch turned to rubble on separate occasions in 2019, last year, and just last month following 20 days of heavy rain.
Thankfully, Swiss NGO ALIPH, which dedicates itself to protecting cultural heritage in conflict areas, has recently announced a package of USD 700,000 (GBP 503,472) to help to stabilise the arch.
The restoration work will be carried out by the University of Pennsylvania in collaboration with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage.
French heritage conservation startup Iconem is also involved in the project and has made a 3D visual map of the structure.
The team involved believes the monument may be threatened by the constant contracting and expanding of its walls due to Iraq’s extreme humidity and temperature fluctuations.
Another threat to the arch is that it was largely kept in place by a 15-degree backwards tilt. However, the bricks at the arch’s rear have since fallen, meaning it is now largely unsupported.
The team involved hopes to find sustainable and long-term solutions to these threats. Their first task will be to erect specially designed scaffolding to support the structure.
The team also hopes to raise more funds for long-term work on the site, and they also hope to train local preservationists to reduce the need for foreign expertise in the future.
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