NEWS

The job that can’t be rushed: Acropolis restoration works

Pressure to meet deadlines and a great deal of hard work have been the theme at the Acropolis over the past year. The Culture Ministry wanted the monuments to be in good shape for the television crews covering the Olympics, but despite intensive efforts by the Committee for the Conservation of Acropolis Monuments and all those working at breakneck speed on the site itself, scaffolding will still surround several of the monuments this summer. After all, this is a job that cannot be rushed, no matter how hard everyone might be working. The biggest problem has been the Temple of Athena Nike, according to Professor Haralambos Bouras, president of the committee. «Although it is the smallest classical monument on the Acropolis, it turned out to be the biggest problem we have had to face in recent years,» Bouras said at a recent lecture organized by the Friends of the Acropolis Association. This was for several reasons – careless handling of the antiquities during previous restoration works, the concrete sections that have been incorporated into the temple, and the advanced state of erosion. Bouras said none of these issues had been dealt with during an earlier study in the early 1990s by Demosthenes Giraud, who now heads the Culture Ministry’s Directorate for the Restoration of Ancient Monuments. Most importantly, they had not been included in the original time frame for the project. The result was mistakes in the committee’s planning. «This was made more significant by the fact that the temple stood at the entrance to the Acropolis, and by the fact that the Games were looming,» he said. So the now dismantled temple will not be in place before 2006. The slow pace of the work is due to the unexpected requirements during reconstruction which become apparent when sections were moved, as well as to bureaucratic delays, staff strikes and bad weather. Parthenon Three programs are in progress on the Parthenon, and the narthex is expected to be ready any time now. However, the difficult task of restoring the northern colonnade will not be completed before 2006. Work on the Propylaia is moving faster than on the Parthenon, although here there have also been some unpleasant surprises, according to Bouras. Iron bars and a large quantity of cement had been used in the past to restore the middle architrave of the eastern wing. Removing them took superhuman efforts. The job is scheduled for completion this month, although more surprises were in store here, when workers found, stuck between two columns, a saw belonging to K. Pittakis, the first curator of antiquities in the 19th century. The most important work carried out by the marble restorers has been on the 20-meter-long western frieze of the Parthenon, which will be ready for display in July.