Day VI: Enjoying M&Ms (Mortars and Mosaics)
Sophia Mittman ’22
We’ve always known that the Romans were master engineers and artists, but during ONE-MA3 we’ve been learning that they were also incredible chemists! Today, after the usual yet satisfying breakfast of bread, cheese, salami, coffee/tea and cake (from yesterday dinner’s dessert), we spent most of the day enjoying the perfect weather out in the castle courtyard while learning all about the methods used to create Roman mortar and mosaics from local masters of those topics.
We not only had the chance to learn about the components and material ratios within mortar (as in aggregates and lime putty), but we also were given the challenge of creating our own mortar. But, the challenge was that our mortar had to achieve reliable, structural stability as well as sustainability (lowest carbon footprint during production as possible). As of now, we have no idea how our mortars will turn out. In approximately five days, once the mortar has set in the plastic cups that we poured the mortar into, we will apply compression tests to find out.
After a lunch of rice and fresh caprese salad (a widely popular dish in Italy, I’ve heard), we headed back outside and began our exploration of mosaics. A few long-time masters of mosaics gave lectures on both mosaics and similar art forms, such as Battuto and Opus Sectile. During an interactive demonstration, we had the opportunity to get our own hands on the tools, chisel away chunks from a piece of white marble, and fill in the gaps with various colors and shapes of marble, turning it into a sun-like mosaic piece.
We learned how the Romans used simple tools to cut tesserae (pieces of mosaic) from rocks and utilized the exact same method to cut out own pieces of marble into small squares, rectangles, and triangles. With freshly-cut tesserae, we created our own mini mosaic masterpieces using mortar in small wooden frames. Whether or not these mosaics will survive for thousands of years like those of the Romans, we’ll never know, but it was a great way to step back in time to the years of the artistic Roman Republic!