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Acropolis Update April 15, 1998
by Spencer P.M. Harrington

Work continues on the restoration of the Acropolis monuments despite concern that a lack of skilled stoneworkers is slowing the project (see "Rebuilding the Monuments of Pericles," January/February 1995). Salaries paid to the 40 stoneworkers now working on the Acropolis cannot compete with those offered by the private sector, said Charalambos Bouras, chairman of the Committee for the Preservation of the Acropolis Monuments. Nevertheless, this past fall the Greek Ministry of Culture approved the hiring of four additional workers who will be shared by architects restoring the various monuments.

[image] Architect Demothenes Giraud on the roof of the temple of Athena Nike (Spencer P.M. Harrington) [LARGER IMAGE]

The Temple of Athena Nike frieze, which depicts various Greek deities and the battle of Platea (or possibly Marathon), has been dismantled and moved to the Acropolis Museum. Cement copies are being put in their place. Demosthenes Giraud, the architect in charge of the restoration, will have the opportunity to correct out-of-sequence frieze blocks on the building's west facade, which shows Athenians fighting Boeotians. Giraud will also try to match clamp and dowel holes on the north and south frieze with those on the upper surface of the architraves, proving the exact locations of the blocks. He will then advise the Acropolis committee on the monument's structural integrity; four years ago Giraud proposed dismantling the entire building to remove rusting iron clamps and reconfigure columns and building blocks.

Meanwhile, the Acropolis Committee has approved a proposal to dismantle 35 blocks of the southern wall of the Propylaia's east porch. Tasos Tanoulas, the architect in charge of the Propylaia's restoration, says the blocks were being harmed by corroding iron clamps and beams introduced during a restoration earlier this century. Tanoulas estimates that it will take two years to dismantle, repair, and replace the blocks.

The Propylaia's east porch (Spencer P.M. Harrington) [LARGER IMAGE][image]

Finally, four restoration projects on the Parthenon are now imminent or under way. Three hundred fifty stone blocks that are part of the north and south walls of the cella, the monument's interior room, have been dismantled because previous restorers had positioned them incorrectly. Architect Nicolas Toganides has identified some 300 stones belonging to the walls from the rubble around the Acropolis. Of the 650 stones from the wall, Toganides says he knows the position of 250. These will be returned to the wall; the others will remain in storage until new information emerges about their position or will be added to the wall, but not in their original positions.

[image] Several column drums of the Parthenon's pronaos (porch), pictured here, are being consolidated. (Spencer P.M. Harrington) [LARGER IMAGE]

Columns of the pronaos, the east facade's interior porch, have also been partially dismantled. Restorers have observed thousands of thermal cracks in the column drums that must be repaired if the existing stone is to support the weight of the new marble proposed for the porch.

The Parthenon's north colonnade (Spencer P.M. Harrington) [LARGER IMAGE][image]

Parts of the north colonnade's entablature are considered to be weak and have been reinforced with scaffolding. The Parthenon project's engineer, Kostas Zambas, has submitted a complete restoration plan for the entire north colonnade. Drums in six columns are known to be positioned incorrectly, and a large-scale dismantling is likely if the Acropolis Committee approves Zambas' plans early this year.

[image] Consolidation of a column in the Parthenon's opisthodomos (rear chamber) (Spencer P.M. Harrington) [LARGER IMAGE]

Last, column drums of the opisthodomos, the monument's back chamber, were damaged by a fire during the Roman period and are being consolidated in situ. Once this is complete, restoration plans call for its architrave blocks to be dismantled and restored.

© 1998 by the Archaeological Institute of America