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FAQ: Ancient Legos on the Parthenon?

“Oh, look, there are legos up there!”

“Did ancient Greeks have legos?”

If only I had a euro for every time I’ve heard one of those.

It’s true, if you look at an ancient temple (of the Doric style) you can’t help being struck by the similarity. These studs, protruding from the ancient stones really look like lego studs.

Doric temple entablature

Part of a typical building of the Doric order, clearly showing the lego-like studs.

 

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But what were they, really?

According to one view, they are nothing but decorative elements and have never been anything more.

Others believe that they are actually relics of older times, when temples, like houses, were made of wood. According to this theory, the studs we see today used to be the ends of wooden pegs used to fasten parts of the construction together. Gradually, as stone became the material of choice, wooden parts of old temples (and later entire temples too) started being replaced by their stone equivalents, after, say, weather or fire damage. The newly carved parts mimicked the old ones, with the result that the appearance of wooden pegs was carried over, even though such pegs were redundant in the new, stone parts.

If that is true, then it is interesting to note that the studs we see today actually had a functioning and structural role once, much as the studs of the legos we build with today.

Drawing showing how pegs might have been used to fasten together the parts of a wooden building. From the book “Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building“, by James C. et al.

 

Note: The detail shown above belongs to a 19th century building (which faithfully copies the details of the Doric order), the National Library of Greece.

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