Confused by Shadows

I’ve been busy this week with trips to lib­rar­ies for research. In fact I’ve been made a little bit busier due to a prob­lem with some­thing I found.

Temple A
Temple A, also known as the Temple of Hercules. Plan from Pirro Marconi’s report of 1929.

I was check­ing the sizes and dat­ing evid­ence for temples at Agrigento. The plan of Temple A in Marconi’s report was very odd because it showed most columns mainly on the north side of the temple, and I thought the sur­viv­ing columns are on the south side. When I looked later at the plans for Temple D, I also found the shad­ows were point­ing in the oppos­ite dir­ec­tion. So it looked like Marconi had rotated the plan by 180° without not­ing it.

Temple of Hercules
Temple of Hercules viewed from the South. Photo (cc) Mark1706.

Then came the next prob­lem.

Temples D and F are very close in date — per­haps twenty years apart — and very close in size. The slightly later Temple F is longer by around a metre in length. They are almost twin temples. But there are prob­lems with the plans, which I’ve scanned so you can see for your self.

Temple D
Temple D, also known at the Temple of Juno Lacinia. Plan from Pirro Marconi’s report of 1929.

Temple F
Temple F, also known at the Temple of Concord. Plan from Pirro Marconi’s report of 1929.

Now here’s a puzzle. Is one of these plans rotated or is the archi­tect not fol­low­ing a con­sist­ent scheme when draw­ing in the shad­ows? I assumed that because the plan looked like it was pro­fes­sion­ally drawn that it would fol­low con­ven­tions. Moreover the shad­ows on the plan of Temple F are very odd, because they sug­gest that the Sun is at an azi­muth of 45° but in Agrigento the north­ern­most pos­i­tion of the Sun would be around 61° — so is Temple F prin­ted with south at the top of the plan? It’s pos­sible because I’ve found a plan Gela with the north arrow inver­ted. The obvi­ous answer would be to check other plans. I’ve tried that, but the cur­rent con­ven­tion in Classical Archaeology is that you simply don’t mark north.

This is where GoogleMaps is handy because I can check the satel­lite view. Doing this shows that the shad­ows are wrong. Not all the details on the plans would be as accur­ate as they first appear.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.