Aug 5, 2016 | By Alec

The moment has finally arrived: the Rio 2016 Olympics are here, and the first games are already underway. We can only hope that plenty of positive achievements will overshadow the negative news surrounding the event in Brazil. The Millennium Gate Museum in Atlanta, however, are looking to history for athletic inspiration. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, they have 3D printed a stunning replica of the one statue that has always represented the Olympics: the great statue of Zeus from ancient Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

It’s a statue that can be found at the heart of the Olympic Games, which were founded way back in 776 BC in Olympia in Western Greece. The most important of all the athletic events in Greece, the Olympic Games were a prestigious and lucrative event that formed a cultural and religious bond that brought all Greeks together. The Games themselves was organized in honor of Zeus, the king of the Gods who ruled from Mount Olympus. Held every four years for more than a millennium (abolished in 393 AD, revived in 1894), it was a five day event of such great importance that a truce was observed by everyone in Greece, regardless of the wars that were being fought.

The event was thus a religious event as much as it was an athletic event, and Zeus was so strongly associated with the Olympics that a huge Temple of Zeus was built at Olympia. Visitors were overwhelmed by a 13 meter (43 feet) tall statue of Zeus on his throne – consisting of a wooden frame covered with gems, ivory plates, ebony and gold panels. Built in 435 BC by Phidias, this wondrous statue was meticulously cared for until the fifth century AD. It would stand at Olympus for eight centuries, until Christian Greece lost interest in the games and Byzantine imperial chamberlain Lausus has the statue seized and brought to Constantinople. There, it would be destroyed in a fire in 475 BC.

Unfortunately, no replica of the statue survived aside from depictions on coins. But the statue is also widely described in Greek histories and in travelling memoires. As a result, the Olympic Games have been heavily associated with both Zeus and his statue even in modern times. The Millennium Gate Museum logically saw it as an important piece for their ‘The Games: Ancient Olympia to Atlanta to Rio’ exhibition, which features numerous Ancient Greek artefacts and tells the history of the Olympics and its links to mythology. The impact of modern Olympics on Atlanta and Rio is also discussed.

But how do you recreate a statue of which no reliable depiction exists? As museum director Jeremy Kobus explained, they turned to 3D printing giants Stratasys and local 3D printing service 3DPTree. “The biggest challenge was the statue no longer existed. 3DPTree and museum curators teamed to conduct extensive research on how it would have looked, and later recreated it digitally,” he explains.

After extensive research, a 3D model (made by 3DPTree) was 3D printed in thermoplastics – rather than gold and ivory – using a Stratasys Fortus 900mc 3D printer. Of course the model is quite a bit shorter than the original (just 6 feet tall), which just further underlines how amazing the ancient wonder must have been. “The process used was fused deposition modeling. Materials were deposited in a very precise manner and at a specific speed – then cooled at target temperatures,” said Stratasys's Jesse Roitenberg. “These controlled elements lead to very high quality 3D printed parts. With finishing techniques, the final product looks very close to the original.”

But before it is completed, the statue still needs to be painted. To do so, the Athens, Georgia-based artist Stan Mullins has been selected. Like the original statue, the replica will sit on an elaborate throne which Mullins will also craft. While the final statue probably won’t qualify as a wonder of the world, it should definitely provide visitors of the Atlanta exhibition with a sense of the scale and grandeur of the ancient games. The exhibition opens on 20 August.

But to the Millennium Gate Museum, this statue is about more than the Olympics – it also shows exactly what 3D printing can do to recreate invaluable lost artefacts from around the world. “Throughout history, there are always instances where the most precious works of art get destroyed or broken. In the past, this disappearance meant items were lost forever,” Kobus said. “That's why we're so heavily invested in the artistic value of 3D printing.” For that same reason, project Rekrei is working hard to 3D print replicas of ancient Iraqi artefacts destroyed by ISIS. 3D printing clearly has a role to play in preserving our collective human history.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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