About the Digital Archaeology Foundation

Using digital archaeology to protect & preserve Nepal’s heritage

Our Story

The Digital Archaeology Foundation was founded by David Ways following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. While involved in post-earthquake research in Nepal he became increasingly concerned at the lack of data on the temples that had been destroyed. Let alone the remaining temples either intact, damaged or dilapidated.

Furthermore while there were many people on the ground ready to begin rebuilding, the sheer lack of architectural designs, engineering plans or even simple photographs of the destroyed monuments meant their reconstruction remained at a prolonged standstill. Disaster recovery for heritage sites, though often talked about, never actually made it to fruition. While humanitarian aid had international backing, cultural aid remained an afterthought.

Early statements from the Nepali government proved encouraging with indications that reconstruction would begin in earnest. However the reality on the ground was different. Plans for rebuilding were delayed while various sub-committees were sought out to oversee the projects.

Further delays occurred as it was revealed nothing would be done until the long-awaited constitution would be ratified. Following this Nepal changed prime ministers and then descended into a fuel and supply shortage due to a constitutional dispute along the Indian border. BBC Article on 3D Cameras While the Department of Archaeology in Nepal was ready to begin plans and the funding was available the funds were perpetually delayed.

In recent news 3D cameras have been launched by archaeologists from the Institute of Digital Archaeology to help preserve ancient sites from destruction by the Islamic State group in Syria.

Though not under direct threat by terrorism Nepal’s temples have been destroyed by recurring natural disasters throughout their history. Now, they are also caught in a bureaucratic quagmire and are drastically underfunded. The future for them is uncertain.

The Digital Archaeology Foundation is helping to digitally save these monuments of immense cultural wealth before any event occurs or reoccurs that may result in their complete destruction. Initially contacting the Institute of Digital Archaeology with an outline of our plan we were sent 3D cameras to aid in preserving Nepal’s monuments, temples and artifacts.

After initially using these 3D cameras we saw that they did not produce the high resolution imagery we needed to truely preserve these momuments digitally. We upgraded our own cameras, equipment using the latest technology to better fulfill the unique requirements needed in Nepal.

Using our own systems we can now fully digitally preserve any Nepali temple, monument or artifact and reproduce it in a high resolution 3D model.

We also work with groups of national and international digital, archaeological and historical experts to help us process our data from our own privately funded equipment.

Vatalasa Temple before the earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal
Vatalasa Temple after  the earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal

The above images show the Vatsala Temple in Bhaktapur Durbar Square both before and after the 2015 earthquake. The stone temple was completely destroyed. There was no 3D imagery ever taken of this temple. Construction has yet to begin.

Currently the Digital Archaeology Foundations Nepal project is privately funded by David Ways through The Longest Way Home. We have a team of volunteers helping us both in fieldwork, data processing and to liaise with local communities.

The data we collect is sent to the IDA in Oxford for referencing and preservation. It is also stored locally, in our own digital archive of Nepal and in several secure locations around the world.

All monuments, buildings, temples and artifacts we digitally preserve will be free to the public, government department and cultural preservation organizations through our Digital Archive of Nepal. The data we collect will be used for research, heritage preservation, heritage appreciation, reconstruction planning, educational programs and 3D replication to aid in rebuilding and restoration work.

This form of digital preservation is the first of its kind to be carried out in Nepal. As pioneers in digital preservation in Nepal we have helped to build a permanent road to securing heritage in Nepal post 2015. We believe that by digitally preserving Nepal’s heritage we are not only protecting its history but also helping to educate people, create a sustainable archive and preserve the country’s history for the future.

Balkumari Temple Nepal
3D untextured model of Balkumari Temple
Balkumari 3D model

The above images show the Balkumari Temple in Patan, Nepal. It’s a one of kind temple housing original and replica shrines which exist nowhere else. The Digital Archaeology Foundation has already reproduced this temple in 3D along with its irreplaceable artifacts.

Image 1. shows the temple as it stood in 2015 during a field assessment. Image 2. shows the temple as an un-textured 3D model during our digital reconstruction phase. Image 3. shows the temple with texture being added to it during the final digital reconstruction phase.

The above 3D image is the original Ganesh shrine found inside the Balkumari temple. The Balkumari shrine itself was also found and digitally reconstructed. The Bhairab shrine is fixed within the main shrine area inside.

In our initial phase one plan we are primarily focused on capturing as much data as possible in the field along while ensuring its long-term preservation.

Given the current predicament Nepal is in we feel time is of the utmost essence to preserve these monuments.

It’s our aim to not only preserve cultural heritage but make it accessible to every person in Nepal and throughout the world. During phase 1 we hope to kickstart the digital revolution in Nepal by showing people how such technology can be used to not only preserve, but also to educate and employ.

Tomorrow never comes in Nepal so we are saving the temples of Nepal for tomorrow, today.

Quick facts: Damage to buildings, temples and monuments from the 2015 earthquakes

Number of monuments destroyed

Number of monuments damaged

Time remaining to preserve monuments

Our team

David Ways

David Ways

Founder / International Director

David founded the Digital Archaeology Foundation which is currently funded by The Longest Way Home. 25% of all Nepal Guidebook sales will be donated to the Digital Archaeology Foundation. David also founded MissingTrekker.com and is now in the process of digitally archiving many of Nepal’s monuments while also educating people on sustainable digital architecture and 3D data acquisition.

Sanju Rimal

Sanju Rimal

Finance Officer

Sanju is a certified accountant from Kathmandu. She tirelessly works to keep our expenses in order and is a huge asset to us when carrying out field work priorities.

Uttam Gurung

Uttam Gurung

Logistics / Driver

Uttam is our man on call who knows how to get us to places faster and more efficiently than anyone else. No Kathmandu traffic jam or dirt road can stand in his way!

Amir Bagale

Amir Bagale

Country Director (Nepal)

Amir Bagale is the Managing Director of Direct Way Exporters in Kathmandu City. Amir coordinates national feasibility and on site surveys for the Digital Archaeology Foundation. He has privately funded transportation and facilitates our on site needs. Amir is also paramount to our national and community relations.

Ganesh Khatry

Ganesh Khatry

Office & Field Assistant

Ganesh works with us when on field work assignments and in the office. From setting up equipment on the day to helping us unload it all that night he’ll most likely be the first to answer the phone in the mornings too.

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