An ancient Greek statue of Zeus has been recreated using 3D printing, after it was lost in the 5th Century.
One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the statue of Zeus at Olympia was recorded only in descriptions and illustrations on coins.
3D printing firms Stratasys and 3DPTree made the recreation for the Millennium Gate Museum in the US city of Atlanta.
One expert in classical sculpture said 3D printing was a “powerful tool” for learning about lost artefacts.
The Greek statue was roughly 13m tall but the 3D-printed version stands at a more modest 1.8m.
It is an attempt to replicate the figure – made of wood, ivory and gold – which was lost in a fire at the Palace of Lausus in Constantinople, the city now known as Istanbul.
The parts were printed in thermoplastics, using a 3D model that approximated the design of the statue.
3D printing had brought a long lost artefact “to life”, according to Jesse Roitenberg at Stratasys.
“It’s not just for engineers, it’s not just for designers – it’s for art, it’s for archaeologists,” he told the BBC.
Mr Roitenberg, a former schoolteacher, said it took two days to 3D print Zeus’s body and 20 hours to print his legs.
After some finishing of the statue’s surface, the pieces were shipped to another location for assembly.
“Often, studying the ancient world is like trying to put the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle back together – but you’ve lost the cover with the picture and half the pieces,” said Susanne Turner, curator at the Museum of Classical Archaeology in Cambridge, who was not involved with the project.
“Anything that allows academics and interested members of the public to be able to visualise and imagine what these lost things may have looked like is an extremely powerful tool,” she told the BBC.
However, Dr Turner pointed out that many museums – including her own – had featured replicas produced with other media for many years.
Artefacts that have been lost in modern times have also been recreated using 3D technologies, such as those at the ancient Semitic city of Palmyra in present-day Syria.
Recently, one group of archaeologists reconstructed Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph in Trafalgar Square in London with the help of 3D technology.
“I think [3D technologies] are going to become increasingly important,” said Dr Turner, “because it’s so terribly distressing that those artefacts were lost.”