CULTURE

Unearthing history: Three scenarios for city center

It?s a well-known fact that the Piraeus-Kifissia electric railway (ISAP) stands on top of a variety of archaeological treasures. If it was possible to carry out systematic excavation work, it would bring to light findings that are buried today and expand the archaeological site over the half the area of the modern city?s center.

The story of the Altar of the Twelve Gods [archaeologists believe that remnants located during ISAP renovation work in the Ancient Agora belong the Altar of the Twelve Gods, a monument marking the heart of the ancient city center] raises the old debate between diverting the ISAP route and finding a way to bring up the finds. At a time like this, both scenarios are unlikely, giving way to a third, whereby artifacts found during the renovation of the Kifissia-Piraeus side of the track (scheduled to begin in April) will be protected by being buried even deeper underground. So, it will be up to others, sometime in the future, to decide which of the two scenarios will prevail, so that this strip of land between the Ancient Agora and Adrianou Street can finally be passed onto the archaeologists.

?In order to get the depth we need at the point we are interested in, which is at the entrance of the Ancient Agora, we would need to start digging at Omonia square,? said Panayiotis Terzakis, director of infrastructure maintainance at Attiko Metro SA, in reference to the diversion scenario. This is because the existence of a double underground network (Line 3 of the Metro also passes by here) would oblige ISAP to go deeper than Line 3, by at least 8 to 10 meters, and all the way to Petralona. For this to happen, the ISAP route between Omonia and Petralona would have be halted for at least three-and-a-half years.

A relatively painless diversion method would be for the railway line between Monastiraki and Thisseio stations to be elevated by one or two meters, allowing excavation work to be carried out underneath. Construction of such a bridge could begin immediately, given that archaeological research would cover, in the beginning, only the points where the pylons would be. For such a project to be carried out, operation of this section of the line would have to be suspended for about a year.

The third-case scenario is covering the Monastiraki-Thisseio stretch through the cut-and-cover method, which foresees shallow tunnels. This would close the space created by the track between the Ancient Agora and Adrianou Street, and construction could be completed in between six to eight months. The biggest disadvantage with this scenario is that while it would unify the two areas, it would also render excavation impossible.