UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Space, imagination and Vitruvius in archaeological [re]construction : reconsidering a modus operandi Millette, Daniel M.


This thesis challenges the way hypothetical Vitruvius-based classical theatre [reconstructions are readily undertaken and accepted in conventional architectural and archaeological research. The cultural matrix born out of the settling of the Roman provinces—in this case, Gaul—was one which evolved out of the adaptation and adoption of mores, crafts, techniques and meanings of meeting cultures; cultural and geographical context were inextricably linked to a region-specific architecture. In Gaul, there remain enough examples to state that the theatre probably deviated substantially from the design tenets elucidated by Vitruvius. Analysis of a hypothetical architecturally [reconstructed theatre—that of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges—reveals that the [reconstruction is based on sparse archaeological evidence and, for the most part, is grounded within an imaginative interpretation of Vitruvius' broad Roman theatre design tenets. The [reconstruction recalls Vitruvius' Book V section on theatres but neglects archaeologically revealed architectonic details that highlight the monument as one which deviates from Vitruvius' Roman model. Thus, from the historical and cultural evidence, including an overview of Gaul's extant theatre remains, and from an analysis of one such [reconstruction, it is unlikely that Vitruvius can be relied upon with any certainty to [reconstruct Gaul's theatres. The epistemology of the interpretation of the De architectura libri decern suggests that the tradition of [reconstructing monuments—in this case, theatres—is mired within a set of "tendencies" that exist within the architectural and archaeological professions: The tendency to borrow Vitruvius as a means to render authority to one's work, the tendency to use the treatise within a didactic framework, the tendency to position the text vis-a-vis the study of classical monuments and vice versa, and the tendency to use "imagined" illustrations within translations of Vitruvius' work and similar treatises, have all been part of a process through which a canonization of Vitruvius' writings has taken place. It is through this process that [re]construction by means of the text has become accepted and condoned within the architectural and archaeological professions.

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