The excavations at the Ancient Agora of Athens, which began in 1931, represent without question the greatest contribution made by the American School of Classical Studies (ASCS) to Greek archaeology.
With the majority of the expanse uncovered thanks to the School and its donors, such as the Rockefeller Foundation, excavations at the site have led to the discovery of some 160,000 items dating from Neolithic times to the 19th century.
Thanks are also due to the School for its work in reconstructing the Stoa of Attalos and its transformation into a museum in 1956.
Now, despite the economic crisis that has hurt every area of cultural and research activity, the ASCS is not only continuing its work tirelessly, but has even picked up the pace, bringing the kind of good news that we so sorely need with the recent announcement by the general secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Lina Mendoni, the director of the ASCS, Jack Davis, and the head of the First Ephorate of Antiquities, Eleni Kourinou, that the first floor of the Stoa, which has been closed for the past 30 years, will be opened to the public in mid-May.
The Stoa of Attalos is among Athens?s finest monuments. Archaeological research has revealed that the ancient shopping mall was built in 150 BC by Attalos II, king of Pergamon, who gifted it to Athens.
Revival of the site
Most recently, the Stoa of Attalos hosted the 2003 European Union Summit, where Cyprus?s accession to the EU was signed.
The opening of the first floor of the Stoa is part of an initiative for the revival of the Ancient Agora run jointly by the ASCS, the Culture Ministry and the First Ephorate of Antiquities. The project has a total budget of 964,000 euros and is co-funded by the European Union and the Public Investment Program of the Development Ministry.
Once the first floor of the Stoa opens to the public, it will house an exhibition of sculptures found during excavations at the Ancient Agora, representing Athenian art from the Late Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. The 56 objects that comprise the permanent exhibition are a rare treat as they have never been shown to the public before.
The views from the first floor of the Stoa and the exhibition are expected to boost visits to the site and raise interest in the entire Agora. Also part of the project to promote the archaeological site is a digital archive of photographs, plans and notes from the excavations of the site that will be compiled into a program for virtual tours in a portal designed not just for experts, but also for laymen who want to learn more about the site, as well as researchers of Classical antiquities.