I LOST MY MARBLES!

One of the first places I visited after arriving in Athens, Greece was the Acropolis ruins, carvings and statues at the Acropolis that where so detailed and unharmed for the most part. All of them were. There were many 2,000 year old made of marble which got me wondering how artists were able to carve such astonishing pieces the could withstand the test of time and still look as if they had been made yesterday.

Marble is a metamorphic rock that forms when limestone is subjected to heat and pressure that naturally changes its atomic arrangement without melting. The components of the limestone such as whether it contained shells, coral, algae and what its mineralogy dictates the kind of marble that forms during metamorphism.

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Fig.1 This is a Google Earth image of the Aegean. The pink points are the Marble Quarries and the Orange one is where we currently are.

In Greece there are several types of marble used for sculpting. Pentelic is a type of marble found in the quarries at Penteli, north of Athens, it is white with a gold tinge and is vary fine-grained. There is Parian fine-grained, which is pure white, entirely flawless and is quarried on Paros in the Aegean. Along with there being a fine-grained Parian there is also a coarse-grained Parian, which is slightly yellowish. Lastly there is Naxos, which is also white.(Fig.1)

The day after we went to Acropolis we went to the Acropolis Museum and I spent an hour in one room staring at and drawing the tools that were used to sculpt the marble. They were all very simple and a lot alike and all had a use for sculpting in the Archaic Period. (Fig.2)

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Fig.2 I drew these images at the Acropolis Museum. Each one is a different tool that was used to carve marble into statues.

A hammer is used to strike a chisel. A chisel is what makes contact with the marble and chips it away. The type of chisel, the angle of the chisel on the stone, and the force of the hammer decides how the stone is removed. Chisels can be made of a single point, multiple teeth or have a flat edge and can vary in size.(Fig.2) [1]

A pitcher is a large chisel with a blunt end that is used for splitting. The marble is cut down to a rough size of what the artist wants the finished piece to be using the pitcher. From there on, varying chisels are used to carve out different angles. The detailing in the sculpture is worked into the stone with a series of increasingly smaller chisels. (Fig.2) [1]

While walking through the Acropolis I saw some of the most beautiful statues but the one that stood out the most to me was one of six women known as the Caryatids that were holding up the roof on the south porch of Erechtheion. When looking at them you can see how much love and affection went into each. They look as if they could be real, live women with all the details. You can see their dresses flowing in the wind and the small details in there hair.(Fig.3)

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Fig.3 This picture was taken at Acropolis. The women are each individually sculpted and act as pillars.

 

The artwork in Greece is incomparable in beauty and difficulty. But thinking about all the work that would have had to gone to each sculpture is mind-boggling. Not just the work that the artist had to do but the slow, geological processes that created the marble. The rock change process itself seems impossible because the rock doesn’t even melt to transform and is able to withstand hundreds of years of weathering and erosion. Even Poseidon who flooded all of Athens couldn’t destroy this marble.

 

1) Palagia, O, 2006, Function, Materials, And Techniques in the Archaic and Classical Periods; Cambridge University Press; 246-251

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3 thoughts on “I LOST MY MARBLES!”

  1. Mykayla – Your post is well organized and methodical which shows that you gave some thought into your outline. Good job. I had no idea, actually that there were so many different types of tools for different marks. I’m wondering, what types of rock were the tools made out of and where did that come from?

    Next time you make a map for your post – lets sit down and talk about the conventions of map-making (labeling, scale, etc.).

  2. Incredible that you can still notice such small details in the hair, face and clothing of the statues. Imagine how much more realistic they must have looked 2,000 years ago! 🙂

  3. Interesting subject choice, I’d never stopped to think about the tools they used, I’m surprised there were so many. Good idea for a post. 🙂

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