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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Building material recycling and historical imponderables

 The Basilica Cistern in/under Istanbul was built by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century.  Three hundred and thirty six marble columns, many recycled from former building sites, hold up the ceiling of an underground cistern capable of holding 80,000 cubic meters of water.  You might also remember this place from the James Bond movie "From Russia with Love".

Two columns are held up by massive Medusa heads.  Where did they come from?  And why not right-side up?  From wikipedia: "it is widely thought that they were placed sideways and upside down only to be the proper size to support their columns."  But this makes no sense for the upside-down one which presumably would be exactly same height if flipped 180°.  A wonderful historical mystery.....