By Richard Owen for The London Times
Italian archaeologists have found the ruins of a 6th-century BC Greek temple-like structure in southern Italy that came with detailed assembly instructions and is being called an “ancient IKEA building”.
Massimo Osanna, head of archaeology at Basilica University, said that the team working at Torre Satriano near Potenza in what was once Magna Graecia had unearthed a sloping roof with red and black decorations, with “masculine” and “feminine” components inscribed with detailed directions on how they slotted together.
Professor Christopher Smith, director of the British School at Rome, said that the discovery was “the clearest example yet found of mason’s marks of the time. It looks as if someone was instructing others how to mass-produce components and put them together in this way”” he told The Times.
Professor Osanna suggested that a “fashion for all things Greek” among the indigenous population had led an enterprising builder to produce “affordable DIY structures” modelled on classical Greek buildings. The terracotta roof filtered rainwater down the decorative panels, known as cymatiums, with projections to protect the wall below.
“All the cymatiums and several sections of frieze also have inscriptions relating to the roof assembly system,” Professor Osanna told Storica, the Italian magazine of the National Geographic Society.
He added: “So far around a hundred inscribed fragments have been recovered, with masculine ordinal numbers on the cymatiums and feminine ones on the friezes”. He said the result was “a kind of instruction booklet”.
“The characteristics of these inscriptions indicate they date back to around the 6th century BC, which tallies with the architectural evidence suggested by the decoration,” Professor Osanna said.
He said that the decorative features were remarkably similar to those on another structure unearthed at Braida di Vaglio nearby: “The similarity in the use of these decorations indicates the same origin” he said. “Possibly the same mould was used”.
Magna Graecia — Latin for “Greater Greece” — was a coastal area colonised by Greek settlers who traded with enclaves such as Lucania, of which modern Potenza was part.
Greek colonisation left much of southern Italy with an Hellenic inheritance, including architecture and culture and even language. A minority in Calabria and Apulia still speaks a dialect known as Griko.
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