You scan the sandstone cliff-lined Valley of Bamiyan in Central Afghanistan and very quickly you realize something is missing. Two large niches, once the homes of the impressive Buddhas of Bamiyan, sit conspicuously empty today. Painstakingly constructed in 507 AD and 554 AD by Buddhist monks, these two statues remained standing for over fourteen centuries, surviving the coming and going of empires in Afghanistan. But a dynamite blast on March 12, 2001, upon the orders of Taliban leader Mullah Mohamed Omar, reduced the 35-meter and 53-meter Buddha statues to rubble and left only their sandstone enclosures behind.
Rather than letting such vital cultural symbols become fade away, an international team of restorers, architects and engineers lead by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) is rebuilding the statues. In their effort to restore this World Heritage Site, the team is using 3D Systems software and ProJet x60 3D printers to map, plan and prepare for this massive undertaking.