Sunday, December 4, 2011


I had the TV on in the background last night, tuned to the Rome episode of Smithsonian Channel's very interesting new series "Trashopolis," when I heard a tantalizing new word: spolia. I didn't find it in the OED or, so I have pieced together a definition from the Wikipedia entry:
spolia, pl. n. [L, spoils] Art history. An instance or the practice of reusing earlier blocks, columns, decorative sculpture, etc., in new construction, esp. as practiced in late antiquity.
spoliation, n., spoliate, tr. v.
The idea appeals to me the way the meaning of my favorite word "palimpsest" (click on Launch Interactive) does - both behaviorally and visually. I spent the rest of my morning choosing examples from Flickr (click on slideshow for easier viewing) with which to illustrate this post!

1st image) Part of a sarcophagus built into a wall in the Roman Ghetto by Michael Tinkler, 2nd image) Carved marble and reused Roman columns near Ankara, Turkey, by Stelios Zacharias , 3rd image) Latin inscription on a block at Ain Tounga, Tunisia, by Graham Claytor in the Flickr stream for the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

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