Static problems at Sounion archaeological site make fortification walls rickety

Pigeon droppings can cause serious damage to monuments, but how much damage can pigeons do in a single day? It’s a question that took quite some time to discuss when the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) met early last month. They had to decide whether to permit the Australian airline Qantas to film the archaeological site of Sounion for an advertisement. The concept included scenes with the Australian National Children’s Choir and other scenes with pigeons flying. The company wanted to use the site for three days, setting up cranes and machines, and closing the site on the day of filming. The one day that KAS gave its approval for filming to take place was today, and for preparations to be carried out, yesterday; and it demanded a hefty sum for the privilege: 300,000 euros. There was talk of inappropriateness, of children roaming about and pigeons leaving their droppings, until Professor Haralambos Bouras made one comment that put matters in a different perspective. «But the fortifications walls at Sounion are at the point of collapse!» Bouras was referring to conservation work that needs to be done, and he’s not the only one who’s worried. Recently Georgios Stainhauer, head of the Second Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, sent a document about the problem to the Restoration Directorate. There was lots of talk about the pigeon droppings, but nothing was said about the static problems of the Temple of Poseidon, the oxidation of the joints, a column struck by lightning last year, and the problems arising with the restoration done in the past. Nor was anything said about the lack of lighting at one of the most impressive monuments of the Classical era, or the ambitious plans to salvage sunken sections of the temple. They were to have been retrieved in 2001, but that project came to nothing. It is estimated that column drums are scattered over an area of 0.2-0.3 hectares at a depth of 4-5 meters. The operation did not go ahead because the Culture Ministry has other priorities and because the task requires extensive technical support.

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