Despite a lifelong fascination with archaeology and ancient history — and even a trip through Sinai, Cairo, and Karnak at age 19 — I must admit that Egyptology has never been particularly interesting to me, obsessed as its public portrayal is with glittering treasures and kingship. Nevertheless, I’m reading the excellent The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson right now, in which I find the chaotic Intermediate periods especially fascinating. Koen Zwanenburg is also fascinated with ancient history, and has built this amazing life-sized version of the boy king Tutankhamun’s mask from 16,000 LEGO bricks.
There’s a definite art to building ruins out of LEGO bricks. They aren’t the best medium for it, quite frankly, since the plastic is usually (unless they’re old and much loved) bright and shiny, the edges crisp and square. And ruins are usually dull, dirty, and broken apart. There’s a tendency to try to over-do it and add studs everywhere, or round elements, or a bunch of different colors, and the shape often gets lost in the busy clutter that the build ends up being. But in the hands of an eminently talented builder like Josiah Durand (a.k.a W. Navarre), ruins can be a glorious thing, awe-inspiring just like the real thing in the jungles of the Yucatan. This one is not any one in particular, but the Mayan ruins at Tikal and the Aztec ones at Tenochtitlan served as inspirations.
The steps are excellent with their grille-brick texture, and the mix of smooth surfaces and studs is just right. There are many colors, but the muted earth tones all work together, and even match the printing next to the steps. The skulls give it the grim ambiance associated with the human sacrifices performed at many such sites, and the tiny statuettes give it some scale. And the lighting is perfect on this one, with slightly overcast South American sky giving it a real-world vibe. It looks almost like the real thing! Now that is the mark of some good LEGO ruin building. Take notes, aspiring builders!
Of the two similar structures in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra in southern Jordan, Al Khazneh and El Deir, the iconic “Treasury” featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is much more famous than the larger (and arguably more spectacular) “Monastery” deeper in the Nabatean archaeological site. So it’s no surprise that we’ve seen Al Khazneh depicted in LEGO many times over the years, with nary a Monastery in sight (or brick). Nevertheless, I appreciate each new LEGO Petra, like this one by Inthert built only from tan pieces.
What’s especially notable about this build is less its monochrome color scheme than the variety of interesting “illegal” techniques Inthert uses to achieve shapes and angles at this scale. LEGO’s internal design team follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure that official LEGO sets are study in the hands of grubby little hands, while adult builders and other LEGO fans have no such restrictions (so it’s rather amusing when commenters decry the use of such techniques in fan-built models — stop it). Specifically, many plates and tiles are half-attached to studs or wedged in with friction, while a number of the Technic pins used as columns are connected using the gaps that allow the pins to flex for clipping into place. But my favorite detail is the Technic gear atop the “roof” of the central section.
Be sure to click through to the full-size photo and expand it to take in all the interesting details and techniques.
The Mesoamerican ballgame is an ancient sport played throughout Central America starting more than three thousand years ago. While some games may have been played purely for exercise or entertainment, there is strong archaeological and historical evidence for highly ritualized games that could even end in human sacrifice for some or all of the losers. W. Navarre has captured the action of a ballgame from the Aztec era, when ballcourts included rings through which players tried to bounce the rubber ball. The builder uses forced perspective to achieve a backdrop with a stepped pyramid temple — even the blazing blue sky is built with bricks.
The microscale pyramid includes decorative elements made from cut stickers — only official LEGO stickers, of course! The cheese slopes work wonderfully for the pyramid’s steps.
The Summer Joust contest is generating some amazing LEGO builds in a variety of categories. Talented multi-theme builder David Zambito‘s entry in the “Mesoamerican Setting” category depicts an Aztec-style temple overgrown with foliage. While the well-built temple is the center of the scene, the landscaping also deserves your attention. The plants are built not just from actual LEGO foliage pieces like bushes, bamboo, and flowers, but also from the plastic sprues that three-leaf plants come in, as well as street sweeper brushes.
If you like this Aztec-style pyramid, you might also like the Maya-style LEGO pyramid we featured previously.
Johnny Thunder would be proud of this epic ride from iamkritch. Named the Black Crow 4×4 (thanks to its special hood ornament), this off-road vehicle has just about everything you might need in traveling through the desert to an archaeological dig-site. The roof is covered in crates filled with useful tools, and there is even a fold-out awning to beat the heat on sunny summer days.
In the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, there’s one temple that rises above the rest as a focal point. The temple is called El Castillo, which means “The Castle,” and it was built to honor a Mayan diety called Kukulkan, or “Feathered Serpent.” Today it’s a major tourist attraction in Mexico and the subject of many pieces of art. This build by 1soko can be placed next to the others as a beautiful rendition of the temple.
The lines on the creation are incredibly impressive. If you’ve ever built something with slopes, you know just how hard it can be to get them right. (And this has slopes on slopes!) It almost looks like it could be superimposed on a picture of the real temple! The only thing that could be more detailed would be the serpent heads at the base of the stairs, but it’s understandable at this scale. Actually, it would need to be many times larger to be the scale of the minifigure standing next to it. Of course, the builder was probably using the character as a size comparison. In any case, this creation is simply outstanding!
Even though this ruined Mesoamerican temple by Jonas Wilde doesn’t depict any particular site, it’s clear Jonas was inspired by the amazing Mayan structures of the Classic Maya era (250-900 AD). Jungle foliage drapes itself over the building, while palm trees sprout from the platform. The composition of this LEGO build is stunning, with the scene built on a platform that includes cutaway views of earth and stone, and a variety of heights that accentuate the detailed flora.
In 1983, UNESCO designated the legendary Peruvian citadel of Machu Picchu as a World Heritage Site. Located in the Sacred Valley, 50 miles northwest of Cusco, the city was constructed around 1450 at the height of the Inca empire and was abandoned just over 100 years later. At time of writing, the LEGO Architecture theme has yet to feature a South American structure or building. This omission prompted Diego Baca to build his own microscale version of this historic site.
Diego has captured all the key features including Huayna Picchu as the mountainous backdrop, the blue of the Urubamba River glistening on the left, and la piedra sagrada [tr. the sacred rock] represented by a single 1×1 round plate sitting on high. Also note the wandering llama in the middle of the site!
Diego has kindly created PDF instructions for this model in the same style as the official LEGO Architecture instructions, with a few pages of photographs, historical information, and step-by-step building plans.
Brick To The Past is a collective of British builders who specialize in large-scale historical dioramas in LEGO. We’ve covered some of their previous masterpieces, including a huge Roman camp and section of Hadrian’s Wall, and their recreation of the streets of Victorian London. We recently interviewed leading member James Pegrum about BttP’s impressive Battle of Hastings display. As if that wasn’t enough for 2016, the gang’s latest effort is this enormous diorama depicting a section of Anglo Saxon Britain in 793AD.
As you’d expect from such a large model, there are numerous areas worthy of your attention. An obvious highlight is the monastery under attack by Viking raiders…
As I wrote in introducing ArzLan’s LEGO Petra, I spent the summer of 1994 on an archaeological dig in Jordan, and visited Petra for one memorable weekend. Both Petra and Jordan as a whole remain one of the highlights of my life. Letranger Absurde has built a lovely microscale version of Al-Khazneh, the “Treasury” (actually an empty tomb), that greets each visitor to Petra as they emerge from the winding gorge called the Siq.
My one critique of this excellent LEGO model is that the sandstone geology of Petra is nearly as spectacular as the many structures carved into the rock face. Although building a detailed tomb using varying shades of tan and red might not have been achievable, plain brown LEGO for the surrounding rocks seems like a lost opportunity.
Al-Khazneh is, of course best known as the entrance to the fictional, trap-filled obstacle course leading to the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The facade is the most spectacular thing about the tomb — the interior is just an empty square chamber, though the acoustics are great for singing.
We’ve come to appreciate the amazing brick-built animals created by AnActionfigure — each one has seemed more life-like than the last. But life would not be life without death, and so I was quite pleased to see the builder’s take on an Egyptian mummy. I’ve seen a number of mummies, not least of which the great Ramses II himself in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and AnActionFigure has captured the look of a mummy wonderfully, from desiccated flesh and exposed bone to the linen wrappings.
If that’s not creepy enough, the mummy’s eyes open and close with a switch at the back of its neck.