What is Emblema?

EMBLEMA: Architectural Restorations in the Ancient Mediterranean is a work group aiming at a deep understanding of the various approaches of the ancients to the conservation and restoration of buildings. The group consists of scholars from different fields such as archaeology, ancient architecture, art history, ancient history, archaeometry and geology, combining their efforts in an interdisciplinary approach which takes into account archaeological remains as well as literary and epigraphic sources.

Ultimately, the purpose of EMBLEMA is to address, along the technical aspects of ancient repairs, their economic, social and cultural implications, including reflections on crucial questions such as memory, heritage and authenticity. Political control, administrative procedures and legal aspects are also taken into consideration. In this framework, ἔμβλημα, the ancient Greek word for ‘repair patch’, refers to the ancient perspective on the conservation issues of buildings that the work group aims to investigate and discuss.

The project will encompass a wide scope of evidence, from a chronological as well as a geographical point of view, as the previous attempts to address the topic of restoration in antiquity have generally been scarce and isolated. All the main issues are addressed in a diachronic perspective, which allows us to trace the evolution of the techniques and of the cultural choices regarding restoration over the timespan of the different civilizations that have developed in the Mediterranean area. In fact, by definition, restoration should be approached as a long-term phenomenon, especially when it relates to buildings, which, by nature, could have a long lifespan. The Mediterranean world in the broad sense is considered, which allows us to put the various restoration procedures into a wider context. Since materials, supply systems and local construction traditions strongly influenced the restoration measures, the group will investigate to what degree these restorations were made according to local, regional or supra-regional practices.

Concerning the case studies, the focus is on public architecture in the broad sense, i.e. stone and brick buildings in sanctuaries and in civic spaces, but other materials are considered, such as ceramic, metal, mortar, plaster and timber. The surface treatments of the walls, pavements and the roofs are also taken into account, so as to have the most comprehensive picture of the buildings and their treatment through time.

Finally, thanks to the pioneering perspective of EMBLEMA, the results of this research shall benefit the study of ancient construction itself.

Concretely, the activities of the EMBLEMA work group include:

  • The promotion of an interdisciplinary dialogue and new research projects on the main aspects of ancient restoration
  • The organization of conferences and seminars on the topic of ancient architectural restoration in the Ancient Mediterranean
  • The publication of the proceedings of these conferences
  • The creation of a digital space to share and discuss the results of individual research projects