EXHIBITS: Regaining One's Marbles

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Science  25 Jul 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5632, pp. 443
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5632.443a

The Internet has accomplished what decades of public campaigns and bitter squabbling haven't: reuniting the famous marble frieze from the Parthenon in Athens, a sculpture 160 meters long that wrapped the temple with religious and mythic imagery. Although the actual frieze remains in fragments housed in Athens, London, and Paris, archaeologists and the public can now study a complete online version at this site maintained by the Greek government.

Created between 447 and 432 B.C., the meter-high frieze depicts some 360 human figures, more than 250 animals, and the 12 gods of Olympus, all in a sacred procession to the Acropolis. Two hundred years ago, the British diplomat Lord Elgin sawed off and carted away half of the frieze, and the marbles remain at the center of a heated debate over repatriation. The virtual tour brings together for the first time all the remaining stones from Elgin's section, now in the British Museum, and the sections held by the Louvre and the Acropolis Museum. You can scrutinize digitized photos and stone-by-stone descriptions of the frieze, or read background information regarding its design and history. This group of horsemen, for instance, formerly galloped along the north side of the temple. Where stones are incomplete due to damage, drawings of the missing sections dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries supplement the photos.


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