Since 1816 the major part of the remaining the Parthenon Marbles, sometimes called the Elgin Marbles, have been in the possession of the British Museum. Unfortunately the elements that Elgin removed were not simply pieces of statutory that had fallen to the ground, rather they were fundamental architectural components of the Parthenon. In removing them Elgin damaged the integrity of the Parthenon and diminished the meaning of the elements he had taken. Now the Parthenon Marbles have been rendered into objects that form part of the British Museum’s display.
Over the next year I hope to show how very much part of the Attican landscape these elements really are and how having them contained in a dingy room, far from the biogeographic, historic and cultural setting that gave birth to them is not merely an insensitive act but is also highly unethical.
One way of beginning this task is with the augmented reality tool Thinglink.
Tectonic plate activity and the unique landscape of Attica
While the Parthenon represents a fundamental essence of Hellenic culture, the culture itself in a product of a unique context.
Anyone who’s been to Athens could hardly fail to appreciate its physical context, but the imposing nature of the Acropolis hill and the abundance of fine Pentelic marble throughout the Attican region has a deeper physical meaning. All is the product of massive tectonic forces. Everything sits on the Agean plate fragment and is subject to enormous pressures. Earthquakes are one indication and metamorphism another.
The Parthenon and the great creations of 5th century BCE Athens would not have been possible without the massive tectonic forces that uplifted ancient coral reefs and metamorphosed them into fine Pentelic Marbles. Both the characteristic landscape of Attica and its exquisite architectural expressions are intrinsically linked. Removing any elements from this dynamic relationship of the tectonic and the cultural strips away a layer of meaning.