The academic discipline of classical archaeology

Photo of Delacroix's Massacre painting

In 1821 the declaration of the Greek War of Independence directed attention away from Rome. Images such as Delacroix's Massacre of the people of Chios stirred Europeans to support the Greek cause. The war also directed attention away from Roman copies to original Greek sculpture, such as the marbles Lord Elgin brought to London from the Parthenon.

By the later 19th century the material evidence for the study of classical antiquity was extensive and the academic discipline of classical archaeology was evolving. The Germans created professorships and cast collections before the French and British. Strasbourg had the first professor in France in 1873, the Sorbonne followed in 1876. In England Oxford had made many attempts earlier in the century to establish a professorship but it did not succeed until 1885. The building of an academic cast collection became a high priority. It was considered an apparatus of scholarship, almost as important as an archaeological library. It was a laboratory where scientific experiments could be carried out.

The classic example of such an experiment was carried out around 1880 by Adolf Furtwängler who placed a cast of a marble head in Bologna on the body of a marble body of an Athena in Dresden, and proclaimed the newly united piece to be a copy of Pheidias's famous bronze statue for the people of the island of Lemnos – a statue mentioned in ancient literature. Most cast collections today display Athena as Furtwängler recreated her.

Photo of Furtwanngler
  • Adolf Furtwängler
Photo of cast of Athena
  • Cast of Athena in Oxford

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