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Journal Article

Doric Measure and Architectural Design 1: The Evidence of the Relief from Salamis

Mark Wilson Jones
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 104, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 73-93
DOI: 10.2307/506793
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506793
Page Count: 21

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Topics: Salami, Metrology, Architectural design, Buildings, Architecture, Fingers, Poetic feet, Dactyl, Hands, Arm
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Doric Measure and Architectural Design 1: The Evidence of the Relief from Salamis
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Abstract

Modern understanding of the design of ancient buildings, sculptures, and other artifacts depends in part on being able to identify the system of linear measurement utilized at the time. But while numerous examples of measuring instruments and standards inscribed in stone have been recovered from the Egyptian and Roman periods in particular, the scarcity of documentary evidence for the Greek world is reflected in a bewildering and often conflicting range of opinion. The induction of metrical units from surveys, buildings, or urban layouts cannot provide unequivocal results, and consensus is accordingly lacking, both about the number of different feet used by the Greeks, and regarding their individual lengths. This paper focuses on the metrological relief recently discovered on the island of Salamis, which is only the second known example of its kind. On the basis of a fresh survey it can be shown that, contrary to previous discussion, the slab records the so-called Doric foot of ca. 327 mm, thus providing the first firm evidence for the very existence of this unit. An attempt is then made to reconstruct the original form of the relief on the basis of symmetry, leading to the hypothesis that first, despite differences, the proportions of the figure were governed by simple mathematical ratios comparable with those of Vitruvian Man, and second, the relief facilitated the comparison of the Doric foot with the socalled Attic foot and the Egyptian royal cubit by means of convenient conversion factors. The conclusion reviews the implications with regard to the study of the architecture of the Classical period.

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