Author: Allie Hagg

Ancient Greece’s Parthenon: A Minecraft Reconstruction

Allie Hagg

Photo credit: http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/ARTH209/Parthenon_gallery.html
Photo credit: http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/ARTH209/Parthenon_gallery.html

The Greek Parthenon can be found in ruins at the acropolis in Athens. Originally designed by architects Iktinos and Kallikrates, the temple became the best renowned structure of Ancient Greece. In the middle to late 5th century BCE, this massive structure was dedicated to the gods, specifically to the goddess Athena whom acted as the patron deity of Athens. The original structure is made out of limestone and marble (as well as bronze and gold in some areas), which was continually looted over centuries. This was nicely outlined in Evan Hadingham’s “Unlocking Mysteries of the Parthenon”. As a result, there is very little left remaining of this structure due mainly to the erosion of the materials over time, but mistreatment of the space and looting as well. Over the years several reconstructions were created to portray the magnitude and structural genius that defines the Parthenon as well as the core ideals of Greek culture. There are several different ways that reconstructions have been created including the replica in Nashville, Tennessee as well as smaller models approximately the size of a dollhouse. Through the advancements in technology as well as some research into the considerable amount of architectural elements, this reconstruction of the Parthenon was created using the game Minecraft. Because the current ruined state of the structure, people are unable to experience the magnitude of the structure as well as the ethereal qualities of the Parthenon, which were carefully architected by interacting with its environment and displaying its culture.

Using Minecraft as a tool to reconstruct this temple has its benefits because there are night and day settings that cast shadows at realistic angles. This is optimal for this reconstruction because one of the most remarkable aspects of the Parthenon is the contrasting light and dark spaces within the different parts and rooms of the building. For the vast majority of the reconstruction, I used the white quartz blocks and its several forms. Most of the floor as well as the roof is made from the chiseled white quartz blocks, the columns are made from the column white quartz blocks, and the capitals for the columns as well as the remainder of the structure is made out of the original white quartz. The white quartz looks the most similar to marble in the server and offers the use of the columns as well (columns cannot be created using other materials). In order to maintain the lighting on the interior as well as around the sides of the building, golden braziers were created with ignited netherrack in the center. There were additional gold accents that were used on the roof as well as adorning the colossal statue of the goddess Athena in the cella.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

In order to begin the reconstruction, researching plans and photos of the Parthenon was essential. The most useful of these were found within James Fergusson’s book, The Parthenon. Within this text a plan was made available as well as useful information regarding the columnar order as well as the proper labeling for the various rooms and sections of the ancient Greek structure. It is also fortunate that there is a decent amount of foundation that remains at the acropolis and has been photographed millions of times. The photographs of the Parthenon from all different angles on the Internet were also very useful in regard to estimating the scale of the building and how it would most accurately and perfectly be reconstructed within the game server. Once an area within the game realm was cleared out into a flat area, the plan that was included in Fergusson’s book was utilized.

The most important aspect of the Parthenon is the aspect of lighting. There is a stark contrast between light and dark within the structure due to the outer columns within the colonnade as well as the wall that sections off the inner portions of the temple. This is also mainly due to the Eastward facing entrance of the temple which was mentioned in Lena Lambrinou’s “The Parthenon Through Time”. During the morning daylight hours, the sun would shine through the columns and within the cella and illuminate the interior of the structure. This aspect of lighting is included within the Minecraft reconstruction because the temple was created with an Eastward facing entrance as well. The columns were all put into place precisely as the plan instructs. This accuracy allows for optimal illumination of the pronaos and the cella exactly as the architects would have originally intended. Additionally, Fergusson remarks upon that of the Doric order columns. Creating stairs out of the white quartz blocks and placing them upside-down on the ceiling and normally on the ground surrounding each column block could recreate the Doric order column style.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Colonnade– Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

Another aspect of the Parthenon that becomes quintessential to Hellenistic architecture of temples is the illusion of a wall made out of columns. In reality, if one desired to visit the Parthenon at the Athenian acropolis, they would come at the structure from an angle. This angle offers the illusion that the left side of the structure, completely made from columns, is really a wall. The concept of creating walls without actually making solid walls is a trend that continues for centuries. For comparison to the real structure, the angular wall illusion is still functional with the Minecraft reconstruction. This peristyle structure is not only ideal to withstand the weight of the roof, but allows for the light and dark contrast to persist throughout the building.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Traditional Angle, Wall Illusion– Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

The colossal statue of patron deity, Athena, proudly stood within the cella. Bruce S. Thornton remarks on the glorious statue and refers to her golden armor. Though there are certain limitations within Minecraft (such as being able to create a realistic statue on a smaller scale), a generalized Minecraft version of Athena was created in the statue’s place. The gold blocks were placed to display Athena’s armor in this section. It had already been established by the plan included in Fergusson’s book that the statue was raised above the ground level of the structure. Outside of the cella, but within the naos, would have contained the infamous Elgin Marbles. These statues were, of course, taken from their home at the acropolis and taken to museums that maintained what remained of the pieces. Thornton remarks on the statues and particularly on how much the statue of Athena cost, as well as the rest of the construction of the acropolis during ancient times.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Cella and Statue of Athena– Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

The last section of the Parthenon is the opisthodomos. This would have been restricted to very few people. The only entrance to this area is around the back. The room is small and contains four Doric order columns. This is where the treasure of Athens was said to be kept. People would give Athena large offerings of gold and precious belongings that were held in the opisthodomos. According to Thornton, this area acted as Athens’ treasury of sorts. The security of the room is heightened because there is only one entrance; it is small, dark and not especially easy to get to.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Opisthodomos– Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

Lastly, the pediment of the Parthenon was a main point of reconstruction. Because of the scaling used, a simplified scene was created to fill the space. The East pediment, of the original structure, was a narrative representing the birth of Athena. The West pediment portrayed the competition between Athena and Poseidon that determined which deity would earn the position of divine patron of Athens. The pediments were not the only details included in constructing the upper parts of the building: the friezes and metopes were included as well which were analyzed in Toshihiro Osada’s article, Also 10 tribal units: the grouping of cavalry on the Parthenon north frieze.

Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft
Upper Structure– Parthenon Reconstruction Project: Minecraft

Reconstructions of ancient Greece’s Parthenon are essential to understanding the experience of the structure. Because it was located at the highest point in the city and because the structure is so grandiose, the temple could be nothing less than a product of and related to the gods. The structure and the devotional statue located within offer a larger-than-life experience to the viewer. It is a marvel to experience the magnitude of the building and its contents while also experiencing the contrasting light and dark spaces within and how the building interacts with its environment. The Parthenon has been, and will continue to be, one of the most influential structures in history. Even in ruins, the structure inspires awe to millions of people and provokes curiosity of ancient Greek culture.

 

 

References:

Fergusson, James. 1883. “The Parthenon: an essay on the mode by which light was introduced into Greek and Roman temples.” HathiTrust (accessed April 18, 2015).

Hadingham, Evan. 2008. “UNLOCKING MYSTERIES OF THE PARTHENON. (cover story).” Smithsonian 38, no. 11: 36. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 21, 2015).

Lambrinou, Lena. 2010. “THE PARTHENON THROUGH TIME.” Calliope 20, no. 4: 20. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 21, 2015).

Osada, Toshihiro. 2011. “Also 10 tribal units: the grouping of cavalry on the Parthenon north frieze.” American Journal Of Archaeology no. 4: 537. Academic OneFile, EBSCOhost (accessed April 21, 2015).

Thornton, Bruce S. 2014. “A MIRROR IN MARBLE.” Claremont Review Of Books 14, no. 4: 84. Points of View Reference Center (accessed April 21, 2015).

Bes: The Dwarf-god of Ancient Egypt

The pantheon of ancient Egyptian deities was central to every day mortal life. Each god and goddess had a function. Among other positions, there were deities related to death, birth, sunrise, sunset, crops, water, and good fortune. Because of their religious practices, the Egyptians worshipped a vast array of deities and offered special praise or sacrifice to specific deities when faced with certain situations. In many cases, images of these deities were commonly seen as statuary or votive figures within the home or worn as amulets. Bes with Worshipper, located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, was likely an object that was placed inside of a home for personal worship purposes or within one of the birth houses found in ancient Egypt. This piece was created circa 664-380 BCE, which corresponds to the 26-29th Dynasties of ancient Egypt. This statue was created from a bronze or copper alloy and is approximately six inches tall, two and a half inches wide, and six inches long (metmuseum.org).

This is a depiction of the god, Bes. Though not one of the main deities in Egyptian theology, Bes is most commonly worshipped during the time from a person’s marriage, through the conception and birth of a child. In the book, The Spirit Of Ancient Egypt, Bes is described by Ana Ruiz as the “god of childbirth, protector of children and guard against nightmares. Bes is also a god of music, dance, merriment, and of the nuptial bed, and was believed to bring good luck to newly married couples” (Ruiz, 110). Ruiz goes on to explain that it was very common for people to wear an amulet with Bes’s image, as it was believed that it would bring good fortune. This was not Bes’s only function within society; Ruiz mentions that Bes also was a deity presiding over inebriation.

In this piece, Bes is placed on a pedestal and towers above the worshipper. The image of the deity is slightly enlarged, yet it is still clear that the figure is meant to be that of a dwarf-like figure. The deity is holding a harp or a lyre in his left hand, which has been assumed to be a symbol of the fact that he can calm angry spirits (metmuseum.org). The harp could also be a representation of the fact that Bes is a god of music as well, though the fact that there is a worshipper at his feet in such a compromising and submissive position almost implies that the mortal figure is asking for assistance with malevolent spirits or praying for his blessing over his nuptial circumstances. Ana Ruiz explains that “this deity did not have a cult center or temple dedicated in his honor, but was very popular and often worshipped privately at home” (111).

Bes, in this depiction, is only mildly portrayed in his unusual form. Usually Bes is depicted as “a dwarf wearing a beard, a feathered headdress and the mask of a lion-type beast” (Ruiz, 110-11). In some instances he is also depicted having a tail. This depiction is relatively simple and is only identifiable due to his dwarf-like physique. One consistent aspect of the god’s depiction is that he is always seen as fully frontal, rather than the typical profile view in painting and relief sculptures. There is very little scholarship on the subject as to why the depiction is so different than other deities, but Encyclopedia Britannica mentions that it was possible that it is this way “since full-faced figures were marginal to the normal, ordered world”. Bes, being a deity largely involved with the spirit world, and particularly malevolent sprits, was far from being part of the normal and ordered world. Thus, the depiction of him fully frontal seems appropriate. His demon/animal-human hybrid of characteristics is also seemingly appropriate. While it was not uncommon for there to be animalistic associations with gods and goddesses in ancient Egyptian theology, being depicted as dwarf-like and “imperfect” is highly unusual. Lacking scholarship on this topic as well, one could assume that the mutated figure is a result with his dealings with the malevolent spirits and possible influence or corruption by the spirits at some point in Bes’s encounters.

By: Alexandra Hagg

 

REFERENCES:

Encyclopedia Britannica. “Bes.” Accessed March 4, 2015. http://www.britannica.com/ EBchecked/topic/62971/Bes.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. “The Collection Online: Bes with Worshipper.” Accessed March 3, 2015. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/548217.

Ruiz, Ana. The Spirit of Ancient Egypt. United States of America: Algora Pub, 2001. Book Review Digest Plus (H.W. Wilson), (accessed March 4, 2015).

Rights and Wrongs of Modern Ownership

The issue of ownership in today’s society is still highly prevalent. Throughout the world, there are countries making laws about cultural property and whether ancient objects should or should not be associated with the modern cultures of today. Some of the main controversies that are around today include the Elgin Marbles and Cleopatra’s Needle. The issue of ownership does not only lie with the controversy of whether the ancient artifacts can truly belong to any modern culture and where these object should reside now; there is also a question of whether these objects should be removed from their original position in which they were placed or if it is ethical or moral to move them to a more public setting. By taking an object out of its own cultural context, there is less of an impact of its true significance within the culture in which it was made. There is a problem with this stigma. If no object were ever taken out of its original placement, then the accessibility of these objects would be greatly reduced. That is the purpose of encyclopedic museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Louvre in Paris. They recreate, in a sense, the culture and context of these pieces so that they still maintain relevance as well as allow access to these pieces for public enjoyment and study.

How does one determine ownership of an object that belonged to an ancient culture? Some determine ownership by discovery, some by modern regional boundaries, and some by the best price offered for that object. As an example, Cleopatra’s Needle will always technically “belong” to the Egyptians. The controversy nowadays is where the obelisk’s final “resting place” should be. There are many sides to this argument, which will be explored and analyzed. Among those arguments, the following are the main points: the artifact should remain in a museum within the region in which it was found, the artifact should be transported to an encyclopedic museum so that others may access and enjoy its cultural significance, or the artifact should not be moved from its original location in which it was left during antiquity. All of these arguments are valid in their own right in different ways. The concept of ownership should not be based on where or to whom the object belongs. There is no exact formula to dictate where an object belongs, it differs with each artifact and each situation; ownership of an ancient artifact should be dependent on the ability uphold the respect for the original culture as well as the ability of that location to preserve that artifact.

In Chas. Chaillé Long’s article, “Send Back the Obelisk!”, Long expresses his outrage over the relocation of Cleopatra’s Needle. He believes that the obelisk has lost its meaning because it has been taken out of its home, culture, and out of context to an area where it will not be valued as highly. This is a scenario in which the cultural significance is lost by the moving of an artifact. Long states, “It was the only monument within the limits of the city. It was a monument of Egyptian fame, Egyptian art, and bore the name of a celebrated Egyptian queen. In Egypt it represented a part of her glorious history. In America it is meaningless and senseless” (Long 412). Long is in favor, generally, of the idea to leave things where they were originally placed in antiquity. He had personal experiences seeing that particular obelisk during his time in the military in Egypt. Cleopatra’s Needle is significant to Long because, during his service, he was able to associate his permanence on Earth with the permanence of that obelisk. For him, seeing a monument which was rooted so deeply into both the ground of Alexandria as well as the Egyptian culture, Long felt as if part of the identity of the land was “rudely torn from its native shore” (Long 411) along with the historical landmark.

If a location, such as an encyclopedic museum, desired to acquire an ancient artifact from another region or continent, the process of relocating the object is also something that should be taken under consideration regarding the question of modern ownership. If the artifact is fragile or likely to be mishandled, then the object’s relocation should be reconsidered. Many artifacts are in decay due to time and weathering, alone. In some cases, the transportation of an ancient artifact is highly irresponsible because it will only serve to reduce the life of the artifact further. Long mentions the crumbling nature of Cleopatra’s Needle in his article: “I remarked that Cleopatra’s Needle is fast crumbling away, and unless some heroic remedy is applied to arrest decay, it may not be preserved long enough to ask whether the ‘nation will last’” (Long 411). There is another side to this argument, though. Because artifacts are so often exposed to the brutality of the elements, the movement to a location where the humidity, temperature, and light exposure could be regulated could serve to extend the life of the object. That is in addition to the incredible advances in technology, which has allowed for these museums to restore these artifacts or generate recreations to offer the full impact of an experience that can no longer be offered by ruins and tatters.

It is unlikely that a person can afford to visit every site of a major archaeological discovery from the ancient world. The aspect of accessibility of the artifacts to the public is another major advantage of these encyclopedic museums obtaining a form of ownership of these objects. The concerns regarding the loss of culture by taking an artifact out of its cultural context (removing it from its original location) are only in regard to certain artifacts. If possible, one may attempt to acquire the Great Pyramid at Giza, but the pyramid would lose its impact if it were taken away from the location at which it resides. Though if it were an artifact like one of the several figurines of god Osiris, its relocation would hardly diminish its significance. In James Cuno’s article, “Culture War: The Case Against Repatriating Museum Artifacts”, he argues that the artifacts belong to everyone who wishes to enjoy them. Cuno says, “By presenting the artifacts of one time and one culture next to those of other times and cultures, encyclopedic museums encourage curiosity about the world and its many peoples” (Cuno 120). The advantage of encyclopedic museums allows the audience to be transported through different times and cultures by viewing the creations made at that time without having to be present at the original location. It is not a simple task to effectively convey the significance of an ancient culture, and it would be impossible to do so without some of the artifacts. While the museum is the place where the artifacts reside and are considered to be the property of the museum, “cultural property should be recognized for what it is: the legacy of humankind and not of the modern nation-state, subject to the political agenda of its current ruling elite” (Cuno, 120). The word “property” is what makes people uncomfortable, when it really only means where the artifact will reside.

There will always be a certain ambiguity that comes with the concept of modern ownership over ancient artifacts. As long as the artifact remains in tact, respected, and still culturally significant, then there is no reason that an encyclopedic museum should not be able to acquire it so that it may be accessible to the public. By allowing these objects to be available to the public, it promotes the public to take an active interest in the history and culture in which the artifacts represent. This increased curiosity encourages the pursuit of careers in the fields of history, art, and archaeology so that the tradition of creating great works and accurately recording these works will continue. The controversy over modern ownership is not really a controversy at all. The artifacts will forever belong to the ancient cultures and peoples to which these objects originated. Upon making these available to the public through the means of an encyclopedic museum, the public now has accessibility and partial ownership of these works because their active interest funds the development, research, and preservation of the artifacts and their exhibits.

By: Alexandra Hagg

 

REFERENCES:

Cuno, James. “Culture War.” Foreign Affairs 93.6 (2014): 119-129. Business Source Premier. 3 Mar.

2015.

Long, Chas. Chaillé. “Send Back the Obelisk!.” The North American Review 1886: 410. 3 Mar.

2015.