Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A monument is a structure built for commemorative or symbolic reasons rather than for any overtly functional use.
Monuments are usually created for the dual function of commemorating and important event or person while also creating an artistic object that will improve the appearance of a city or location. Cities that are planned such as Washington D.C. and Brasília are often built around monuments. The Washington Monument's location (and vertical geometry, though not physical detail) was conceived to help organize public space in the city before it was ever connected with George Washington. Older cities have monuments placed at locations that are already important or are sometimes redesigned to focus on one. As Shelley suggested in his famous poem "Ozymandias" ("Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"), the purpose of monuments is very often to impress or awe. In English the word "monumental" is often used in reference to something of extraordinary size and power.
Functional structures made notable by their age, size or historic significance can also be regarded as monuments. This can happen because of great age and size, as in the case of the Great Wall of China, or because an event of great import occurred there such as the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France.
Monuments are also often designed to convey historical or political information. They can be used to reinforce the primacy of contemporary political power, such as the column of Trajan or the numerous statues of Lenin in the Soviet Union. More benignly they can be used to educate the populace about important events or figures from the past. Monuments also serve as demarcators of public spaces.
Most large monuments are built by governments, but smaller ones are still often built by individuals.
Monuments have been created for thousands of years, and they are often the most durable and famous symbols of ancient civilizations. The Egyptian Pyramids, the Greek Parthenon, and the Moai of Easter Island have become symbols of their civilizations. In more recent times, monumental structures such as the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower have become iconic emblems of modern nation-states. The term monumentality relates to the symbolic status and physical presence of a monument.
Until relatively recently, it was customary for archaeologists to study large monuments and pay less attention to the everyday lives of the societies that created them. New ideas about what constitutes the archaeological record have revealed that certain legislative and theoretical approaches to the subject are too focused on earlier definitions of monuments. An example has been the United Kingdom's Scheduled Ancient Monument laws.
Common types of monument
- Buildings designed as iconic landmarks - e.g. the Empire State Building
- Cenotaphs and memorials to commemorate the dead, usually though not always war casualties - e.g. Vimy Ridge Memorial
- Columns, often topped with a statue - e.g. Nelson's Column
- Grave stones constitute small monuments to a dead person
- Mausoleums and tombs to inter the dead - e.g. the Great Pyramid
- Monoliths erected for religious or commemorative purposes - e.g. Stonehenge
- Obelisks usually erected to commemorate great leaders - e.g. the Washington Monument
- Statues of a famous individual or as a symbol - e.g. Statue of Liberty
- Triumphal arches, almost always to commemorate military successes - e.g. the Arc de Triomphe
- Entire areas can also be used as memorials, usually to commemorate wartime atrocities or notably bloody battles - e.g. Oradour-sur-Glane or the battlefields at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Borodino.
On occasion areas of especial natural beauty are also referred to as monuments.
- Seven Wonders of the World
- Monument Valley
- Terminating vista
- Monument tube station and Monument to the Great Fire of London
- Monument Avenue (Richmond, Virginia)
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