CULTURE

New finds debut at Kerameikos

The Kerameikos Museum, closed for refurbishment over the past year and a half, reopened on Monday, with a major new find forming the centerpiece of its new display. The Kerameikos Kouros, unearthed in May 2002, is a striking, 2.10-meter statue of the Archaic era whose beauty, unaltered over 2,500 years, stunned the German archaeologists who found it. Apart from the Kouros, the renovated museum houses more new finds, including a Sphinx found with it that dates to 560 BC, two funerary marble lion sculptures (the better preserved of the two dates to the sixth century BC) and fragments from a marble Ionic-style pillar and a Doric-style pillar. The four sculptures had found a second career as supports for a road that crossed the cemetery of Kerameikos, archaeologists say. The discoveries came as a complete surprise at the end of the methodical excavations carried out by the German Archaeological Institute. The most exciting of the finds is the Kouros, which is attributed to the Dipylos sculptor, the artist who constructed the large, so-called Dipylos Head, which is now at the National Archaeological Museum. These exhibits, which fill out the picture of Athenian Archaic sculpture, can all now be admired at the reopened Kerameikos Museum, together with many other other antiquities unearthed during the excavations of the site, begun in 1863 by the Archaeological Society and continued from 1913 to this day by the German Archaeological Institute. The excavations, now part of the Kerameikos archaeological site, revealed the northwestern part of the city walls, its two main entrances, the Dipylon and the Sacred gates, as well as ancient Athens’s largest official cemetery, which lay outside the ancient city walls, on both sides of Iera Odos, or the Sacred Way (in the direction of Eleusis). The exhibition The refurbished museum’s orderly exhibition spreads across four halls and the building’s covered atrium. The first hall features impressive marble funerary monuments of the Archaic and Classical eras, showing the evolution of ancient sculpture. On display are funerary stelae (gravestones), including those of Eupherus and Ampharete with her grandchild, the stele of the young equestrian Dexileus who was killed in the 394-3 BC battle against the Corinthians, complete with inscription, the stele of Demetrias and Pamphile, and a robust bull from the funerary monument of Dionysius from Collytus. The German Archaeological Institute’s recent Archaic finds in the area of the Sacred Gate, namely the Kouros, the Sphinx and the lion, feature prominently. The remaining three halls that surround the atrium contain, in appropriately designed and modern display cases, various offerings found in the tombs. Finds, including vases and personal items, date from the 11th century BC to the sixth century AD and reflect all the periods of the cemetery’s long existence. They include ceramics from the Geometric period, Archaic vases and objects with elaborate decorations, as well as black-figure and red-figure vases, some of which are attributed to well-known artists such as Lydus and the Medeias Painter. Other impressive exhibits are the white lekythoi, decorated with themes from the world of the dead and finds from excavations at the nearby metro station, like the group burial of victims of the fifth-century BC plague, which struck Athens shortly after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 430-29 BC. The Kerameikos Museum is situated at 148 Ermou Street, tel 210.346.3552. For the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics, the museum will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 8.30 p.m., while after the end of the Games it will revert to its normal opening times, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.