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Fri Jul 24, 2020, 05:17 AM

Did the Ancient Greeks Design Temples With Accessibility in Mind?

Study suggests ramps found at ancient sites may have been used by people with disabilities, but some scholars remain skeptical



Study suggests ramps found at ancient sites may have been used by people with disabilities, but some scholars remain skeptical

Reconstruction of the Sanctuary of Asclepius in Epidauros (© 2019 J. Goodinson / Scientific advisor J. Svolos)

By Courtney Sexton
SMITHSONIANMAG.COM
JULY 23, 2020 7:30AM

New research published in the journal Antiquity posits that the ancient Greeks constructed ramps at temples, particularly those associated with healing rituals, to ensure individuals with impaired mobility could access the sacred sites.

Study author Debby Sneed, a classicist at California State University, Long Beach, developed her theory by visiting dozens of archaeological sites across Greece. She concluded that those with the highest number of ramps were common destinations for ailing visitors. The Sanctuary of Asclepius in Epidaurus, for instance, boasts 11 stone ramps installed across nine structures, reports Laura Geggel for Live Science. Built in the sixth century B.C. to honor the Greek god of medicine and healing, the temple underwent significant renovations around 370 B.C.

In addition to cataloging the presence of ramps, Sneed cites archaeological and written evidence suggesting the Greeks recognized physical disability. Artifacts and imagery from the period feature people stooped over, moving with difficulty or walking with canes; even the Greek god Hephaestus is described as having a limp. Offerings found at various healing temples include votive carvings of worshippers’ affected body parts, from legs to feet, hands and ears.

“It seems clear that the most reasonable explanation for [these] ramps is that they were intended to help mobility-impaired visitors access the spaces that they needed to experience religious healing,” Sneed tells Live Science. “This shouldn't surprise us, really: The Greeks built these spaces for disabled people, and they built the spaces so that their target visitor could access them.”

More:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/did-ancient-greeks-design-temples-accessibility-mind-180975392/

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