Tuesday, October 23, 2012

O is for opus sectile

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Opus sectile  is my O word for today's ABC Wednesday meme.

Opus sectile is an art technique that was popularized in the ancient and medieval Roman world.
Materials such as marble, glass, and mother of pearl were cut and inlaid into floors and walls to make a picture or pattern.
The material was cut into thinnish pieces, polished, and trimmed further according to the chosen pattern.


My first three photos are of a display at last month's 13th Annual Studies of Ancient Jerusalem Conference in Jerusalem.


Remember how I told you about the sifting project, sifting rubble from the Temple Mount?
Well, that's how these opus sectile fragments were found.
It is believed that the tiles above are from Herodian times, some 2,000 years ago, from Herod's expansion and repaving of the Second Temple courtyards. 



I think it was sifting staff member Frankie Snyder who made the above "puzzles," one a known pattern from Byzantine times and one from a Crusader church.

Enlarge the photo and see how the actual stone pieces are inserted into the painted model.

I was so impressed!


Here is an opus sectile floor in situ.
It is in the Herodian Quarter (Wohl Museum) in the Jewish Quarter.
The affluent Jewish house from 2,000 years ago is one of six such houses discovered and excavated in 1969-1983.
Their design was influenced by the Hellenistic-Roman style.

Here in between our shadows is a partially-uncovered opus sectile floor at Susita (Hippos) in the Golan Heights. 

If you want to learn the language of regular mosaics (not opus sectile), the Getty Conservation Institute and the Israel Antiquities Authority  developed a wonderful
Illustrated Glossary in pdf.
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15 comments:

ArtMuseDog and Carol said...

Always a very creative and informative post on your blog ~ fascinating and love your choice for 'O' ~ (A Creative Harbor) ^_^

Reader Wil said...

It must be great to find some real objects from times long passed. You have a very interesting profession, Dina!

Robert Geiss said...

What wonderful mean to measure time and life. Impressive the mathematics which surely are behind these images.

Please have a good Wednesday.

Roger Owen Green said...

lovely, but labor-intensive!
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Chubskulit Rose said...

Just beautiful!

O is for....
Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

cieldequimper said...

Trust you to find something far more interesting than obituary or origami or oil or... whatever. That's fascinating!

Greensboro Daily Photo said...

I was going to ask what the difference is between opus sectile and mosaic. I was wondering if they were the same and you confirmed that they are not.

O how ORIGINAL you are, as usual!

VP said...

Sometimes we can see quite complicated patterns in relatively recent buildings here, but obviously not like that!

Francisca said...

Original was the word that came to mind, but I see that I am not! :-D Opus sectile... I wonder how long I can remember the term... opus sectile, opus sectile... It looks outstanding, too!

Sara said...

The homes of the wealthy in those days, as well as the grander public buildings, must have been amazingly colorful.

Gattina said...

I learned something new I didn't know the expression "Opus sectile" but I have seen these tile patterns in Roman ruins.
Gattina
ABC Team

ChrisJ said...

Fascinating to see. I hadn't heard the phrase "Opus Sectile" either.

DawnTreader said...

Interesting finds and must also take some clever deduction to reconstruct the patterns where it has not been kept intact...

Ann said...

Can you imagine what shere man power it took to create those during that time! Today we have just about any tool we want.
Ann

JM said...

Fascinating!