Indiana University Bloomington

H205: Geology of Sculptors' Materials

H205 GEOLOGY OF SCULPTORS' MATERIAL (3 cr.) NMNS Critical evaluation of properties of rocks and minerals used in sculptures. Origin and distribution of marble (limestone), quartzite (sandstone), terra cotta, jade, and other common earth-materials. Critical appraisal of the choice of material by sculptors mostly in Western Europe ; geology of localities famous for sculptures and studios. Two lectures and one laboratory per week.

Goal : Conduct research in an undefined field, i.e., the application of geology to aesthetics. Students will learn to formulate a research project and complete it on time.

Theme : The central theme of this course is the process of discovering knowledge within the theoretical and empirical constructs of the science of geology vis a vis objects of art that are beyond rational explanation. We expect to introduce "a way of thinking" that connects science (requiring reproducible results) and products of art (necessarily unique). Yet, an object of art could be viewed as a product of industry from geological raw materials. We address neither a controversial question nor a relevant issue; rather, we focus on an intellectual curiosity about a rational connection between seemingly unrelated disciplines and entities. How would one go about finding the connection, if any, and how would one approach the problem in a scientifically valid way, constitute the core of the course.

TEXTBOOKS: None. Instead we will have reading assignments from several books on reserve in the Geology Library (6th Floor) and in the Fine Arts Library (2nd Floor). Initial assignment will be:

Feynman: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman (Pages 191-198)

Press and Siever: Understanding Earth (2000 Edition; Pages 1-23)

A course pack of essential reading is available in the Bookstore after January 10

COURSE ORGANIZATION : The course will be organized in three thematic parts, not necessarily in a strict sequence. One part will consist of gathering information from textbooks, e.g., properties of minerals and rocks and the processes that formed them, and, the geological reasons for the occurrence of these materials at certain places on the Earth. The second part will be the examination of the actual material used by sculptors in fashioning their products. A third part, and the most challenging, will be an analysis of the reasons why a certain material was used for a sculpture. This third part will be carried out through two projects.

Students will visit the IU Art Museum regularly to familiarize themselves with objects of art and consult the Fine Arts Library and the museum's archives for information on the material used in some of the sculptures. Attempts will be made to visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art to examine a variety of sculptures (subject to funding for "field work")

EXAMINATIONS AND GRADING: Grading will be on an "A-F" scale; "P-F" will not be permitted and an "I" will be allowed only for medical reasons and extremely extenuating circumstances. Visiting an out-of-town museum on one Saturday may be required subject to availability of funding.

  • Two intra-term lecture examinations 20%
  • Laboratory projects/examination 20%
  • Oral and written presentations of project I 20%
  • Oral and written presentations of project II 20%
  • Final Examination (comprehensive) 20%

Preliminary Schedule

Week 1+2 Rocks and minerals popular in sculptures of ancient civilizations, especially in the Mediterranean region. Visit IU Art Museum. Research in the Fine Arts Library. Introduction to Plate Tectonics. Selection and initiation of group projects.
Week 3+4 Physical and chemical properties of selected rocks and minerals. Examination during week 4.
Week 5+6 Atomic structures of minerals; origin of rocks. Discussion and oral presentation of Project I. Visit IU Art Museum. Examination during week 6.
Week 7 Written report of Project I due. Discussion of Project I. Preliminary reading list prepared by students for Project II; tentative selection of projects.
Week 8+9 I Tour of the Ceramic Studio on Mon. Plate tectonic reasons for the occurrence of rocks and minerals of interest to sculptors. Folds and faults.
Week 10 Submit written feasibility document. Class discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the feasibility documents. Regional geology of Italy and Greece . Examination during week 10.
Week 11+12 Drafts of detailed outline of research paper due.
Presentations and discussion in class. Modification of drafts as per discussion and feedback from peers and instructor. In depth debate on the properties, origin and distribution of rocks and minerals pertinent to Project II.
Week 11+12 approved and returned. Final research paper due on the LAST DAY OF CLASSES.


Instructor: Abhijit Basu; Email:
Office GY 521 Ph. 855-6654/5581/5913
Office Hours: MTW 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Associate Instructor: TBD

LECTURE ROOM: GY 447 (may be changed) LABORATORY: GY 245

Required : Clipboard binder to keep all handouts, which you should bring to every class meeting including laboratory sessions.

On First Day of Class :
Fill out address slip & class schedule
Form study groups

Final Examination: 8:00 – 10:00 a.m. Monday May 2, 2005


Click on images to enlarge

marble [image]

diorite [image]

marble [image]

basalt [image]

jade [image]

marble [image]