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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423

Spolia is the Latin word for “spoils.” In class, spolia was defined as architectural fragment which is taken out of original context and reused in a different context. The term “spolia” might imply that these fragments were taken at random from other monuments and simply reused. However, the scenes which are depicted on these fragments often were picked in order to compare the ruler to past “golden” rulers. For example, in the Arch of Constantine, fragments of sculptures honoring Marcus Aurelius and Trajan were added to symbolize the equal greatness of Constantine. (Pattie Umali)

Posted at Dec 01/2008 03:48PM:
Spolia are, essentially, pieces of structures transplanted into different structures. Use of spolia can be very intentional (see example in above definition); however, their use can bear no significance whatsoever. An example of unintentional usage of spolia appears in the story of the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos: after the monument was buried after an earthquake, both the Knights of St. John and Turks later living in the area considered the ex-monument a convenient quarry, using spolia to build a castle and houses, respectively. --Ellen Pederson