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The Parthenon Marbles cloned in Carrara: a challenge to the British Museum



A highly advanced robot at work on the contested friezes.

At the foot of the Apuan Alps, the arm of a highly advanced robot is shaping a horse from the frieze that, at the beginning of the 19th century, the Scottish statesman Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin, removed from the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis.

Claimed by Greece, the Parthenon friezes have been in London since 1817. The initiative to 'clone' them in life-size comes from the Institute of Digital Archeology, the organization based in Oxford that, in 2016, reconstructed the Arch of Palmyra, destroyed the year before by ISIS.

The sculpture, like the Arch, is the work of the TorArt laboratory, a Carrara company of excellence specialized in the field of robotic sculpture.

In particular, the Robotor robot by Giacomo Massari and Filippo Tincolini has created, using the marble from the Apuan Alps, the prototype that is serving as the base for the copy of the horse in Pentelic marble, the same type used on the Acropolis.

Instead of sweat and chisels, algorithms, technology, and craftsmanship are at work. The copies, as American Roger Michel, director of the Institute of Digital Archaeology, would have it, should ideally end up at the British Museum: "The goal is to encourage the return of the marbles," he told the New York Times: "When two people want the same cake, making another identical one is the most obvious solution."

It remains to be seen how the British Museum, which already refused the official request to scan the frieze, will take this. It's worth noting that the scans used for the copy come from digital images taken with iPhones and iPads by technicians of the Institute posing as tourists.

The models could be displayed near the London Museum that houses the originals. Others will be made before autumn.

The dispute over the Parthenon friezes has been ongoing for decades: through the words of the president of the British, former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, last June, London opened up to a possible sharing agreement with Athens, which, however, claims full ownership of the sculptures.

Italy, for its part, has led the way by sending to Greece a fragment of the frieze previously conserved in the Antonio Salinas Archaeological Museum in Palermo.

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