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Digital Survey and Mapping with Google Earth: Land Transport of Quarried Stone for Temple Construction at Selinunte, Sicily in the Archaic and Classical Periods

Andrea Samz-Pustol

Bryn Mawr College

This study uses Google Earth to map and examine roads used for the transport of quarried stone for Greek temples in Selinunte, Sicily in the Archaic and Classical periods.  Google Earth is a user friendly open source tool that allows users to map quarries and temples, plot roads and study their lengths and gradients in order to better understand transport roads, and conduct digital landscape surveys.  Scholarship has focused primarily on quarrying and construction processes, but does not often address the journey between the quarry and completed structure. By studying the transport roads between quarries and temples in Google Earth, scholars can begin to understand the difficulties of stone transport, logistics and costs, timeframe of the journey, and organization of the workforce.  Transport greatly impacts the time required to construct a temple and involved a large workforce of humans and animals. This journey could only occur during a short window of time due constraints from weather and the agricultural calendar, thereby making efficiency of the route and speed of transport even more important. Archaeological evidence exists for parts of transport roads, but other parts are hypothetical and determined by the path of least difficulty, which often aligns with modern roads.  The transport road from the famed quarry, Cave di Cusa, has the most archaeological evidence for its route. From here it may have taken roughly a day to transport one column drum and required hundreds of oxen, as well as people to drive carts and manage the herd. Therefore the 266 column drums of the outer colonnade of Temple E alone required 266 day-long trips from the quarry to the temple. Studying transport roads in Google Earth, whether hypothetical or not, allows us to conduct a digital experiment to better understand the challenges of stone transport and factor in topographic features that add difficulty to the journey.  Conducting a digital landscape survey in Google Earth eliminates time in the field since scholars do not have to search for these sites on foot and enhances our understanding of ancient sites.

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