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Celsus Library in Ephesus (Turkey), anastylosis carried out 1970-1978

Anastylosis (from the Ancient Greek: αναστήλωσις, -εως; ανα, ana = "again", and στηλόω = "to erect (a stela or building)") is an archaeological term for a reconstruction technique whereby a ruined building or monument is restored using the original architectural elements to the greatest degree possible. It is also sometimes used to refer to a similar technique for restoring broken pottery and other small objects.


The intent of anastylosis is to rebuild, from as much of the original materials that is left after usually thousands of years of abuse, historical architectural monuments which have fallen into ruin. This is done by placing components back into their original positions. Where standing buildings are at risk of collapse, the method may entail the preparation of drawings and measurements, piece-by-piece disassembly, and careful reassembly, with new materials as required for structural integrity; occasionally this may include new foundations. When elements or parts are missing, modern materials (of restoration grade) may be substituted, such as plaster, cement, and synthetic resins.

The international Venice Charter of 1964 details criteria for anastylosis. First, the original condition of the structure must be confirmed scientifically. Second, the proper placement of each recovered component must be determined. Third, supplemental components must be limited to those necessary for stability (that is, substitute components may never lie at the top), and must be recognizable as replacement materials. New construction for the sake of filling in apparent lacunae is not allowed.


Anastylosis has its detractors in the scientific community. In effect, the method poses several problems:

  • No matter how rigorous preparatory studies are, any errors of interpretation will result in errors, often undetectable or incorrigible, in reconstruction.
  • Damage to the original components is practically inevitable.
  • An element may be, or may have been reused in, or may have originated in, different buildings or monuments from different periods. To use it in one reconstruction obviates its use in others.


A primitive anastylosis was carried out in 1836 at the Acropolis in Athens, where the Temple of Athena Nike was re-erected from remaining parts. Currently anastylosis is being applied to the Parthenon.

Starting in 1902, the Greek architect Nikolas Balanos used anastylosis in order to restore a collapsed portion of the Parthenon, restore the Erechtheion, and rebuild the Nike Temple a second time. Iron clamps and plugs which had been used earlier had started to rust and had caused heavy damage to the original structure. These were removed and replaced with precious metal clamps. When the temple was once again rebuilt additional newly identified original fragments were added.

One of the earlier examples of anastylosis: the Borobudur in Java, Indonesia.
Anastylosis in the Roman Theatre of Cartagena, Spain (2008)
Restored anastylosis in Knossos palace, Crete, Greece, by Arthur Evans.

Early in the 20th century, Dutch archaeologists carried out anastylosis of the stupa at the Buddhist temple complex at Borobudur in Java, Indonesia between 1907 and 1911. Further work was later carried out by Indonesian teams.

The French archaeologist Henri Marchal, from the École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO), was taught the method by Pieter Vincent van Stein Callenfels and in the 1930s began restoration work at Angkor Wat. The first temple of many thus restored was Bayon and Banteay Srei. As an exception, Ta Prohm was left in its original state.

Other examples:

Currently (2006), consideration is being given to applying this process to the Buddhas of Bamyan in Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Archeologists have estimated that as much as 50% of the statues' material is recoverable.

The Roman Theatre of Cartagena, Spain, is also partially reconstructed, using reversible methods with a limited anastylosis, considering the amount of fragments found (2008).

See also[edit]



  • (German) Adolf Borbein, Tonio Hölscher, Paul Zanker (Hrsg.): Klassische Archäologie. Eine Einführung. Reimer, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-496-02645-6 (darin: Hans-Joachim Schalles: Archäologie und Denkmpalpflege. S. 52 ff. Gottfried Gruben: Klassische Bauforschung. S. 251 ff.)
  • (German) Gruben, Gottfried: Anastilosis in Griechenland In: Anita Rieche u.a. (Hrsg.): Grabung – Forschung – Präsentation. Festschrift Gundolf Precht. Zabern, Mainz 2002. S. 327–338. (Xantener Berichte, Band 12) ISBN 3-8053-2960-1
  • (German) Klaus Nohlen: Anastilosis und Entwurf. In: Istanbuler Mitteilungen, Bd. 54 (2004), S. 35–54. ISBN 3-8030-1645-2.
  • (German) Hartwig Schmidt: Wiederaufbau. Denkmalpflege an archäologischen Stätten, Bd. 2, hrsg. vom Architekturreferat des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts. Theiss, Stuttgart 1993. ISBN 3-8062-0588-4
  • (German) Michael Petzet, Gert Mader: Praktische Denkmalpflege. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1993. ISBN 3-17-009007-0; v. a. S. 86 ff. und 98 ff.

External links[edit]

Translated from the French language article and the German language article 10 May 2006.