BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The world-renowned statue Hermes with the
Infant Dionysos has been equipped with innovative seismic
protective devices that will help the 7-foot-high marble statue of
the Greek god withstand powerful earthquakes.
The protective devices, called Friction Pendulum bearings, were
custom made for the statue based on analysis and tests conducted at
the University at Buffalo's earthquake engineering laboratory.
More than 2,000 years old and generally regarded as an original
of the famous Greek sculptor Praxiteles, the Hermes statue, located
at Archaeological Museum of Olympia in Greece, is one of few works
of art in the world equipped with devices to protect it against
damage from major earthquakes.
"This is sometimes the best strategy for protecting individual
artifacts other than seismically isolating an entire museum
building, which is a significantly more complex and expensive
task," said Michael Constantinou, Ph.D., co-investigator with
Andrew Whittaker, Ph.D., both of whom are UB professors of civil,
structural and environmental engineering.
They provided review services, conducted verification studies
for analysis and design, developed specifications for the
manufacture and testing and performed the testing.
Vlassis Koumousis, Ph.D., of National Technical University in
Athens, who served as engineer of record, performed dynamic
analysis of the isolated statue and assessed the safety of the
statue under extreme seismic loadings. The work performed both at
UB and the National Technical University in Athens was supervised
by Athena Athanassiadou, director for museums of the Greek Ministry
of Culture, which funded the project.
The methodology developed by the UB engineers also will allow
the Greek Ministry of Culture to evaluate the potential for
seismically isolating other important statues.
According to the UB researchers, the Friction Pendulum bearings
will allow the Hermes statue to withstand the maximum earthquake
forces that can occur in the region, which could register as much
as a magnitude of eight on the Richter scale.
"Preservation is of paramount importance, since the statue of
Hermes represents one of Greece's most important artifacts," said
Manufactured by Earthquake Protection Systems of Vallejo,
Calif., the Friction Pendulum devices have been extensively tested,
analyzed and further developed by UB researchers for seismic
protection at several sites, including the International Airport
Terminal in San Francisco, giant offshore gas platforms in Russia
and the Ataturk Airport Terminal in Istanbul.
The devices are designed to allow structures, structural
components or even an ancient work of art to swing gently from side
to side like a pendulum instead of either breaking or toppling
Using software developed by UB researchers and following
recommendations supplied by Constantinou and Whittaker, researchers
at the National Technical University in Athens conducted computer
simulations to demonstrate how the isolated statue would likely
respond during the maximum ground motions likely to occur at the
Based on those simulations, Constantinou and Whittaker then
developed specifications for the manufacture and testing of the
The bearings were shipped to UB, where they were tested in the
university's bearing testing machine, one of very few in the world
that is capable of testing with precision forces down to just 500
pounds, the level used to test the bearings for the Hermes
"It's very difficult and challenging to accurately measure such
a low level of force," said Constantinou.
The machine is part of UB's Structural Engineering and
Earthquake Simulation Laboratory, which recently underwent a $21.2
million equipment upgrade, funded by the National Science
Foundation, the State University of New York construction fund and
From the UB lab, the bearings were shipped to the
Archaeological Museum of Olympia, where they were installed below a
reinforced concrete base on which the Hermes statue was placed.