On the 26th of April, a group of year ten students visited the British Museum for a guided tour that proved to be not only informative but entertaining as well. The focus of the tour was Roman and Greek craftsmanship and we observed how their art and architecture progressed over time and how they improved their technique.
Our tour guide was Dr Sam Moorhead, Finds Adviser for Iron Age and Roman coins and staff lecturer for archaeology. With his unique insight and clear way of teaching, we were able to uncover a lot more information from what we saw, developing our understanding and enabling us to find more depth in a piece of evidence than what was merely on the surface.
We discovered how Ancient Greek sculptures changed over time as their knowledge of anatomy developed. They began to carve in stone as they were inspired by stone sculptures from Egypt and Mesopotamia. However, these archaic sculptures were not realistic as their body proportions were a bit off and their faces were flat with all their facial features, including the popular ‘archaic smile’, only visible from the front. As time progressed, we could see evidence of how Greeks developed their knowledge of anatomy from the sculptures as their body proportions become more regular and more details were added, for example the addition of veins.
Evidence of Greek innovation and prowess in terms of architecture was seen when we looked at a model of the Parthenon. The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, who was the patron goddess of Athens. The Parthenon was built with eight fluted, baseless columns at the front and seventeen at the sides. Measured from the top step of the base, the building is 30.89 m (101.34 ft) wide and 69.54 m (228.14 ft) long. The columns support an entablature which consists of a plain architrave and frieze with alternating triglyphs and metopes.
We looked at the stories that the metopes depicted and looked at the triangular pediment to work out who was who and what was going on. They were scenes from mystic battles with gods striking down giants on the east front, Greeks triumphant over Amazons in the west, Trojans in the north and men fighting with centaurs in the south.
Greek innovation is evidenced by the fact that the Parthenon includes almost no straight lines. Both the entablature and the base platform curve upward at the centre, the metopes lean outward, and the columns slightly swell in the centre.
We also saw how the influence of Greeks was evident in Roman sculpture, however it could never really beat the quality of Greek craftsmanship which was more intricate, realistic and well-refined.
Overall, the trip was very beneficial, especially as we learnt more about what we were studying in school. It also provided us with a different perspective on our studies.
By Wese and Briana