Pheidias' Workshop at Olympia

Pheidias' workshop was located to the west of the temple of Zeus, outside the boundary of the Altis. The workshop was 32.15 meters long and 14.5 meters wide. It is interesting to note that these are the approximate dimensions of the naos of the temple of Zeus. The thickness of the walls (over one meter wide) suggest that the workshop was also very tall (likely up to 14 meters in height). The studio was divided into two rooms, the smaller was likely used for storage, and the larger for the construction of the statue of Zeus (P. Valavanis). Inside the larger room was found evidence of scaffolding and pulleys, and the remains of two rows of four columns that mimicked the pillars in the temple naos. The general construction of the workshop suggests that it was built as a replica of the naos; the workshop would have given the artist a sense of the how the statue would look in the temple itself (E. Gardiner). Outside the workshop were found pits containing tools, bits of bronze, iron, lead, amber and ivory, and remnants of clay moulds (B. Ashmole). Although most of the remains date later than the statue of Zeus, they provide important evidence for the style of chryselephantine statues. One of the most interesting finds at the site was a clay drinking-cup with an inscription on the base that read "I belong to Pheidias." Although some have criticized the cup as a hoax, recent analysis of the encrustation within the inscription dates both the mug and writing to ancient times (J. Swaddling). Pheidias' workshop was later turned into a Christian church, which accounts for the building's remarkable preservation.

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