2000-yr-old Roman marble jigsaw puzzle still baffling scholars

September 20th, 2010 - 4:44 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Sept 20 (ANI): A massive marble jigsaw puzzle, over 2000 years old, has baffled scholars and puzzle-solvers for centuries.

The Severan Marble Plan of Rome measures 60 x 43 feet and is carved in the 3rd century CE.

It captured the ground plan of Roman architecture in minute detail, even down to staircases, but only 10 to 15 percent of the intricately carved map has been found.

Excavations for Rome’s new subway line this year may soon unearth further pieces to the puzzle, according to an article from Discovery News.

The puzzle consisted of 150 slabs mounted on what was once the interior wall of the Temple of Peace, but was slowly destroyed during Middle Ages.

Ten years ago, the Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project started creating digital 3D scans and colour photographs of the 1,186 surviving fragments and using shape-matching algorithms to try to fit together the pieces.

“The algorithms output many proposed matches, some less probable than others. The algorithms also don’t consider many kinds of evidence. For this, humans are needed,” Wired News quoted Professor Marc Levoy of Stanford University.

Fitting together the pieces by matching the shapes of the fragments is similarly problematic because the fragments themselves are far from “pristine.”

Then, in the 18th century, pieces of the Plan were put on display at the Capitoline Museum, but in an attempt to make them fit into the wooden display frames, pieces were broken and edges sawn off. Models made from Renaissance drawings were also displayed alongside real fragments, adding to the confused provenance of the Severan Marble Plan.

So not only are most of the pieces missing, but also someone has sawn off the edges of what pieces remain. (ANI)

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