A new lens into the past

Remnants of old Roman structures withstand centuries of use and warfare across European countries, tracking a brief history and culture of those which lived around all of them. But hidden within mortar, and hinted by fragile splits and potato chips, the structures record something else that may enhance just how comparable products are built today: ancient engineering.

The 4th summertime in a row, 16 increasing sophomores visited civilization-spanning structures and monuments in Italy through the division of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s ONE-MA3 system, which integrates the research of art, architecture, and archaeology. Throughout the three-week area training course, that will be sustained by the AREA3 Association (Associazione per la Ricerca e l’Educazione nell’Arte, Archeologia e Architettura), students conducted analysis on old items and structural products to inspire brand new research projects grounded in time, that they explore further in the fall semester in 1.057 (history Science and tech). 

Admir Masic, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering just who leads this system, says, “Bringing pupils to the industry could be the easiest way to stimulate their particular interest.” Alongside CEE, Masic is also an archaeological materials professors other for the Department of components Science and Engineering (DMSE) within Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology (CMRAE). Inside the study, Masic and his staff apply concepts of biochemistry and materials science to characterize and arrange human-made materials utilized both in the past and at present. 

ONE-MA3 “offers pupils a hands-on experience to know about exactly how materials will be the backbone of infrastructure, and just how the area features developed over many thousands of years,” claims McAfee Professor of Engineering and CEE division head Markus Buehler. Buehler views summer time system a quintessential MIT knowledge — by studying old construction materials in the field, pupils have the ability to link theoretical ideas to useful options, and may start to tackle modern dilemmas in construction. 

Constructing sustainable frameworks

One product, Roman cement, served since the foundation when it comes to training course. Unlike the quick-to-disintegrate, weather-sensitive and pothole-prone tangible accustomed construct roadways and highways today, Roman concrete hardens and fixes itself when you look at the presence of water. 

Conventional contemporary concrete is normally consists of three products: liquid, rock, and cement. However, that formula is deceptively easy: the precise compositions of the products will make or break the resulting structure. In the case of Roman concrete, those particular compositions aren’t well understood, just archived in the frameworks by themselves. 

“Understanding the reasons for the resilience of Roman concrete could pave new paths,” claims Janille Maragh, a graduate student and three-time teaching assistant when it comes to program which worked alongside graduate student Linda Seymour. “It’s a very important factor to-do analysis using social heritage data, but without framework, it’s tough to grasp the magnitude of the problem.” 

To start up summer time system, students gathered at the castle in Sermoneta, a historic village located in the Italian country side. There, they learned about the significance of lime, an integral ingredient in Roman concrete, in addition they tried their particular hand at composing Roman concrete making use of various aggregates these types of as pozzolana (volcanic ash), cocciopesto (ground clay bricks), and pumice under the instruction of local guest lecturers. The aggregates examined had been easily present in various environmental and volcanic configurations in old Rome, and don’t demand a carbon emission-heavy manufacturing procedure to produce, unlike aggregates and materials utilized in modern-day cement today. 

One absolute goal of the certain exercise, together with system as a whole, is elicit innovative and advanced level ways to engineer brand new materials and technologies. Through experimentation with various materials, proportions, and compression screening associated with the ensuing examples and frameworks, students discovered first-hand the difficulties behind generating mortars which can be both durable and lasting. They presented the thinking behind their particular selected compositions to their colleagues ahead of their after that lessons. 

Taking a trip time

Showing the Institute’s motto, “mens et manus” (“mind and hand”), Masic led pupils on trips to numerous historic and archeological websites around Italy to provide pupils the chance to communicate with different materials, examine their uses first-hand, and contemplate the cultural need for old structures additionally the materials that built them. Through lectures and field exercises, students studied the chemical makeup, historic value, and conservation methods of preserved frameworks being set the phase for future engineers to construct frameworks that last and absolutely impact community. 

“My a cure for ONE-MA3 is this knowledge will allow members to grow as people so when pupils,” Masic claims. “The program allows pupils to view our globalization by having a completely new viewpoint.” 

By using old Roman materials once the building blocks for modern-day structures in presence of architectural and architectural paragons, pupils had been confronted with a learning possibility unavailable inside classrooms of Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Sophomore Anna Landler, students whom took part in the 2019 iteration of ONE-MA3, says this system aided her grasp ideas crucial to civil and ecological manufacturing that will simply take months to comprehend when you look at the classroom. “Being out in the industry, where we had been able to see and feel these objects, helps me understand all of them much better and know how they communicate with the world around us … I would personallyn’t be nearly as prompted as I would-be if it was inside a lecture structure or a textbook.” 

As well as studying old technologies, students learned all about renovation, the practice of most readily useful protecting items. In a tour of the Vatican museum, students heard from man Devreux, the head for the museum’s laboratory for rock preservation, as he described and revealed them behind-the-scenes renovation of marble sculptures. Sophomore Sophia Mittman, a student majoring in materials research and manufacturing, says the ability enhanced her passion for conservation. “Everything we learned arrived alive inside front folks, whether it had been making 3-D models of structures and statues … It is an incredible solution to learn from old technologies and discover how they can be adjusted and put on today’s technology these days,” says Mittman.  

The pupils also went to 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 provide archeologists a glimpse into Roman life, freezing people and their particular surroundings over time. There, pupils were given a pressing issue: no-one is able to effectively protect Pompeii and its particular damages. They even explored the United states Academy in Rome with the Director and MIT Professor John Ochsendorf, where they examined considerable ancient texts, particularly Galileo Galilei’s initial works therefore the very first edition of Italian backup of Vitruvius. 

Motivated with a newfound enthusiasm for social history, pupils after that examined photogrammetry for 3-D modeling so that you can digitally document and preserve museum artifacts and structures. “I think there is an interesting combination between using digital arts and news to describe these engineering ideas to those that cannot comprehend it besides, or don’t possess particular opportunity to speak to professionals and professors, it is definitely important to attain childhood all over the world and encourage them. I believed that i’ve been capable explore my interests during the system, and it has permitted us to inquire and grow loads,” states sophomore Ben Bartschi.


After exploring the extravagant baroque palaces in Turin, the pupils made their particular solution to the Egyptian Museum, Museo Egizio, in which they’d the opportunity to get behind the scenes and research ancient Egyptian artifacts, roughly 3,000 years old. They used non-invasive characterization tools to study and gather information on centuries-old materials. In addition they learned about the interesting Egyptian Blue pigment, created 5,000 years ago, which continues to be utilized in modern technology and technology today.

“The fact that we have been dedicating much time for you ourselves to engage in this process makes us understand the total amount of time, treatment, and importance of conservation,” Landler says. Without seeing and studying old materials, frameworks, and social artifacts inside their environments, “you don’t truly understand the work that gets into this work.” 

With every version for the system, ONE-MA3 pupils understand the importance of looking into the last to encourage innovation today, together with imperative cultural history allowed and preserved due to feats of civil, environmental, and material manufacturing. Numerous, including Masic, are excited to see the acquired knowledge used as pupils begin the brand new academic 12 months. 

“Advancement lies in the user interface of various disciplines,” says Masic. “To have the ability to innovate, we must observe and challenge lots of views. In terms of ancient technologies, this is valid besides: It’s a good avenue for innovation, and we aspire to translate that into motivation for contemporary products and structures.”

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