[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 10:36 GMT
How the Parthenon marbles are being reborn
Scanning casts of the Marbles (Picture - ICT)
Scanning the casts in Basel
The task of breathing life back in to the 2,500-year-old Parthenon sculptures started in Basel, Switzerland, at the city's Skulpturhalle museum.

This museum features a collection of high quality plaster casts of nearly every known existing piece of Parthenon sculpture.

A team of four from the University of Southern California's Institute of Creative Technologies (ICT) spent five days in the museum scanning the collection of casts.

Modern 3-D reconstruction techniques involve projecting light on an object from different angles to make digital camera images. Computers then analyse the images to map the surface of the object.

The ICT team made 2,200 scans, recording 160 metres of frieze, 52 metopes - the battle scenes that once formed the outer frieze - and parts of the pediment statues, which adorned the triangular spaces at either end of the temple.

The 80 gigabytes of data they returned with were assembled into 152 high-resolution models, which have been combined with digital models of the Parthenon itself to show how they would look in place.

But the job doesn't finish there. The team is now working on bridging the gap between the surface of the plaster cast the reflective qualities of the sculptures' original marble surface.

This involves combining data taken from the casts in Basel with information on surface colours and reflectivity from digital photographs of the original sculptures which are now held in the British Museum.

Virtual Parthenon reconstruction (Picture - ICT)
A virtual model of the sculptures in position
Restoration of the Parthenon building itself is helping in this area, says Dr Paul Debevec, of the ITC. It has revealed the qualities of newly quarried Pentelic marble, which was used in the original construction.

The ITC team hopes its work can incorporate reproductions of missing parts and bronze additions, as well as restore the "lively and exuberant original colour scheme".

Contrary to popular belief the original sculptures were painted, although there's uncertainty about the exact colourings. Computer technology cannot improve on the best efforts of archaeologists and historians to say what the original looked like, he says.

But it can show alternative theories side by side, and aid discussions. Did the metopes have a red or blue background, for instance?

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific