A new lens into the past

Remnants of old Roman structures withstand centuries of use and warfare across Europe, recording the real history and tradition of those whom lived around all of them. But concealed within mortar, and hinted by delicate cracks and potato chips, the frameworks record something different might improve exactly how comparable products are made these days: old engineering.

When it comes to fourth summer consecutively, 16 rising sophomores went to civilization-spanning structures and monuments in Italy through the division of Civil and ecological Engineering’s ONE-MA3 system, which integrates the study of art, structure, and archaeology. During the three-week area course, that is sustained by the AREA3 Association (Associazione per la Ricerca age l’Educazione nell’Arte, Archeologia e Architettura), students performed analysis on ancient items and architectural materials to motivate brand-new studies grounded with time, that they explore further into the fall semester in 1.057 (history Science and Technology). 

Admir Masic, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor of Civil and ecological Engineering whom leads this system, claims, “Bringing pupils in to the area may be the simplest way to stimulate their particular fascination.” Along with CEE, Masic can be an archaeological materials professors other for Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) at Center for components analysis in Archaeology and Ethnology (CMRAE). Inside the research, Masic and his team use axioms of chemistry and products technology to define and organize human-made products used both in the last and also at current. 

ONE-MA3 “offers pupils a hands-on knowledge to know about exactly how materials would be the anchor of infrastructure, and how the industry has developed over many thousands of years,” states McAfee Professor of Engineering and CEE department head Markus Buehler. Buehler considers the summer program a quintessential MIT experience — by studying ancient construction materials in the field, pupils are able to link theoretical concepts to useful configurations, and may start to tackle contemporary issues in building. 

Constructing renewable frameworks

One product, Roman cement, served because the foundation for program. Unlike the quick-to-disintegrate, weather-sensitive and pothole-prone concrete used to construct roads and highways today, Roman concrete hardens and repair works it self in the presence of liquid. 

Main-stream contemporary concrete is usually made up of three products: water, stone, and concrete. However, that formula is deceptively easy: the precise compositions of the products can make or break the resulting framework. When it comes to Roman cement, those specific compositions aren’t well understood, just archived inside frameworks by themselves. 

“Understanding the reasons behind the strength of Roman concrete could pave brand new routes,” says Janille Maragh, a graduate student and three-time training associate for system which worked alongside graduate student Linda Seymour. “It’s the one thing to-do research making use of social heritage information, but without context, it is tough to grasp the magnitude regarding the problem.” 

To kick off summer time system, pupils collected at the castle in Sermoneta, a historic village found in the Italian countryside. Here, they discovered the importance of lime, an integral ingredient in Roman cement, and attempted their hand at composing Roman cement using various aggregates such as pozzolana (volcanic ash), cocciopesto (floor clay bricks), and pumice underneath the training of regional visitor lecturers. The aggregates examined had been readily within various ecological and volcanic configurations in old Rome, and don’t have to have a carbon emission-heavy manufacturing process to produce, unlike aggregates and products found in modern concrete today. 

One definitive goal with this certain exercise, together with program in general, is generate innovative and advanced level approaches to engineer new materials and technologies. Through experimentation with various materials, proportions, and compression evaluation of this resulting examples and frameworks, pupils discovered first-hand the difficulties behind creating mortars being both durable and renewable. They offered the reasoning behind their opted for compositions with their peers before their particular after that lessons. 

Traveling time

Showing the Institute’s motto, “mens et manus” (“mind and hand”), Masic led students on excursions to different historic and archeological sites around Italy to provide students the opportunity to connect to various materials, study their utilizes first-hand, and contemplate the cultural need for ancient structures and materials that built all of them. Through lectures and field workouts, pupils studied the substance makeup products, historic importance, and preservation methods of preserved frameworks to be able to set the phase for future designers to build structures that final and absolutely impact culture. 

“My expect ONE-MA3 is the fact that this knowledge enables individuals to grow as people so when students,” Masic states. “The system permits pupils to look at our globalization through a brand-new perspective.” 

Using ancient Roman products as building blocks for modern-day structures when you look at the existence of architectural and structural paragons, pupils were subjected to a understanding possibility unavailable into the classrooms of Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Sophomore Anna Landler, a student whom took part in the 2019 iteration of ONE-MA3, says the program aided this lady grasp concepts crucial to civil and environmental manufacturing that will simply take months to comprehend when you look at the class room. “Being in the area, in which we were capable see and feel these things, helps me understand them much better and know-how they interact with society around us all … I would personallyn’t be almost because motivated when I could be if it was in a lecture structure or a textbook.” 

Besides learning old technologies, students learned all about renovation, the rehearse of most useful keeping items. In a tour regarding the Vatican museum, students heard from man Devreux, your head associated with museum’s laboratory for rock preservation, while he described and showed all of them behind-the-scenes repair of marble sculptures. Sophomore Sophia Mittman, a student majoring in products science and engineering, claims the experience enhanced the woman enthusiasm for preservation. “Everything we learned came alive right in front side of us, whether or not it was producing 3-D types of frameworks and statues … It is an amazing option to study on old technologies and see how they may be adjusted and applied to modern technology today,” says Mittman.  

The pupils also visited Pompeii — the ancient town hidden by 4-6 meters of volcanic ash because of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Excavations at Pompeii offer archeologists a glimpse into Roman life, freezing individuals and their conditions eventually. Truth be told there, students had been given a pressing problem: no-one is able to effectively preserve Pompeii as well as its damages. Additionally they explored the American Academy in Rome using the Director and MIT Professor John Ochsendorf, where they examined significant ancient texts, like Galileo Galilei’s initial works and first version of this Italian content of Vitruvius. 

Motivated from a newfound enthusiasm for cultural heritage, students after that studied photogrammetry for 3-D modeling in an attempt to digitally document and protect museum artifacts and frameworks. “i believe it has an fascinating combo between using electronic arts and news being explain these engineering principles to those that cannot understand it aswell, or don’t possess form of opportunity to talk with experts and teachers, it really is undoubtedly important to reach childhood across the world and encourage all of them. I felt that i’ve been capable explore my passions throughout the system, and contains permitted me to ask questions and grow loads,” states sophomore Ben Bartschi.


After examining the extravagant baroque palaces in Turin, the students made their particular way to the Egyptian Museum, Museo Egizio, where that they had the chance to go behind-the-scenes and investigate ancient Egyptian items, about 3,000 yrs old. They utilized non-invasive characterization tools to review and collect data regarding the centuries-old materials. They even discovered the fascinating Egyptian Blue pigment, invented 5,000 years ago, which is still used in modern research and technology today.

“The fact that we’re dedicating so much time and energy to ourselves to take part in this method causes us to be recognize the total amount of time, attention, and significance of preservation,” Landler states. Without going to and learning ancient products, frameworks, and social items in their conditions, “you don’t actually comprehend the work that switches into this task.” 

With every iteration associated with the program, ONE-MA3 students understand the significance of looking at yesteryear to encourage innovation these days, together with crucial social history allowed and preserved because of feats of civil, environmental, and material manufacturing. Numerous, including Masic, tend to be excited to begin to see the acquired understanding applied as pupils start the latest educational year. 

“Advancement lies on interface of various disciplines,” says Masic. “To have the ability to innovate, we have to observe and challenge a variety of views. About old technologies, this is valid as well: It’s outstanding avenue for innovation, and we also desire to translate that into motivation for contemporary materials and frameworks.”

Contributors to ONE-MA3 include: Restorer and art conservator Roberto Scalesse from Società Erresse, IT specialist Gianfranco Quaranta from the Artech Laboratories srl, chemist and preservation scientist Marco Nicola from the Adamantio srl and the University of Turin, professor of archaeology and old technology Dorothy Hosler through the division of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, Duncan Keenan-Jones from University of Queensland, Christian Greco and Enrico Ferraris through the Museo Egizio, Guy Devreux through the Musei Vaticani, Tommaso Agnoni through the Roffredo Caetani Foundation, Francesco Di Mario from Soprintendenza Archeologia and Belle Arti age Paesaggio per le Provincie di Frosinone and Latina age Rieti, Lisa Accurti through the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio Città Metropolitana di Torino, Bruno de Nigris and Massimo Osanna through the Parco Archeologico di Pompei, Mastro Gilberto Quarneti, Gianni Nerobutto from Calchèra San Giorgio, Alessandro and Gian Luigi Nicola from the Nicola Restauri srl, Mauro Volpiano and Claudia Cassatella through the Politecnico di Torino, Riccardo Antonino from Società Robin and Politecnico di Torino, Stefano Trucco and Anna Piccirillo through the Centro per la Conservazione age Restauro “La Venaria Reale,” Dario Parigi from Aalborg University, Michal Ganobjak through the Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Chiara Mastreopolito, Alessandro Marello and Alessandro Bazzacco from Adamantio srl, Piercarlo Innico from Associazione Acropolis, Giuseppe Donnaloia from Società CACO3, Franco Vitelli from Società Sectilia, and freelancers Michele Sinisi, Claudia Rivoli, Francesca Mancinelli, and Livio Secco.