How to build scale models of ancient buildings

Written by danielle odom
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How to build scale models of ancient buildings
Model buiding is a challenging and rewarding hobby. (pyramid image by Horticulture from

Scale models are useful to teachers and students to better visualise how ancient buildings and towns were constructed. However, hobbyist and recreational builders enjoy the challenge of re-creating ancient buildings just for the satisfaction of completing the project. Whether you are re-creating an ancient pyramid for a hobby or a Roman structure for a project, there are some basic things you need for ancient model building.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Base for model
  • Glue
  • Blueprint or design
  • Medium for building (wood, cardboard, clay or paper)
  • Paints
  • Landscaping (if desired)

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  1. 1

    Search for blueprints or a plan for your structure on the Internet. There is a large amount of information available on the topic of model building. Some options are the Parthenon, the Great Pyramids of Giza or the Athenian Treasury. Each of these have well-documented designs and plans that you can create your model from. If you cannot find your chosen structure, you can create blueprints of your own, so you can determine the required order to the assembly. If you have purchased a kit, read the instructions through entirely before beginning assembly. This will allow you to see any problems or questions you may have about a step before you get there. Resource 2 has many examples of ancient buildings with detailed drawings and plans.

    Use the blueprint or design to decide on the scale of your model. Depending on what you are building and where you are going to present it, scale is particularly important. The standard scale in model building is a 1:10 ratio. This means that every 1 inch represents 10 feet. However, if you are creating a whole village or a section of pyramids, this would make an exceptionally large model. You can fix that by changing the ratio to 1cm for every 10 feet. Prefabricated model kits have the scale already set.

  2. 2

    Begin with a strong foundation for your model. The base should be something that is lightweight but strong enough to hold the weight of your model. MDF, or medium-density fiberboard, a good choice; or you could also use plexiglass or foam core.

    To make the base of the model look more like the ground around your building, cover the base with a mixture of two parts white glue to one part water. Sprinkle with sand or dirt and allow to dry. After the sand or dirt dries, you can then add grass clippings or green slivers of paper to look like grass.

  3. 3

    To make the model look authentic, you can use the same materials as the original or you can paint the medium to look like it. For a building that has blocks, you can mould bricks from rubber moulds. Use clay or plaster to make the bricks and assemble the model as they assembled the original, one layer at a time. The craft store will also have pieces of leather or fake firs that can be used to make tepees or rugs to add to the effect of the model. The roofs of many old buildings were made of straw, which can be easily reproduced by taking a walk through a field and picking some long grass.

  4. 4

    Assemble the foundation as you would if you were building the actual building. If you have the kit, use the instructions to find your first steps. Glue the foundation bricks and support pieces to the base, and let them dry thoroughly before adding other pieces. Always check the squareness of the walls before you glue them down.

    Use the drying time to complete any detail work that will be in the model. Examples of this would be trees, bushes or painted figures that will be around the completed model.

  5. 5

    Assemble the rest of the structure in stages, allowing each one to dry fully before building on the next. If you have a kit, follow the instructions carefully.

  6. 6

    Add landscaping and details to the finished model. After you allow the model to dry completely, you can paint or carve into the medium to make it look more authentic.

Tips and warnings

  • Check local hobby stores for landscape foliage and decorations.
  • The strength and stability of the structure depends on the foundation.

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