Friday, April 23, 2010

Parthenon yields clues to quake-proof design

ATHENS: Japanese scientists will next month look into seismic resistance secrets in the design of the 2,500-year-old Parthenon which has withstood scores of quakes.

"The Parthenon had great resilience to earthquakes, as did most classical Greek temples," said Maria Ioannidou, the archaeologist in charge of conservation of the ancient Acropolis citadel where the Parthenon stands.

"The ancient Greeks apparently had very good knowledge of quake behaviour and excellent construction quality," she added.

Toshikazu Hanazato, a professor of engineering and an expert in post-quake reconstruction, at Japan's Mie University, heads the research team which is visiting Greece next month to study the famed marble temple.

"Excellent construction"

Both countries have high levels of seismic activity and the Japanese believe there are common elements between ancient Greek temples and their own monuments, Ioannidou said.

The Parthenon has sustained significant damage in its long history but most of it was caused by man.

The temple is partly built on solid rock but also has stone foundations going 12 metres deep, and its walls were held together by metal joints coated in lead to prevent rust, Ioannidou said.

It withstood a 373 BC quake that destroyed the city of Elike in the Peloponnese and a subsequent 226 BC temblor that toppled the Colossus of Rhodes, a gigantic bronze statue numbered among the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

More recently, a 5.9-Richter earthquake in 1999 that killed 143 people around Athens shifted some of the Parthenon's architectural elements, but caused no major damage.

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