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Archaeologists study Hadrian’s Arch ahead of restoration

Standing near the foot of the Acropolis, it once separated the old from the new city of Athens. Now, restorers hope to help Hadrian’s Arch regain some of its former glory. Scaffolding is wrapped around half of the Roman monument, with workers busily huddled over plans. Archaeologists are examining the Pendelic marble arch to determine the best method of restoring, cleaning and protecting it. «Restorers will study the problem of pollution that has settled on the arch and how this could be removed in the most painless way,» said Dimosthenis Giraud, who heads the restoration effort. «The restorers will see how to deal will serious cracks.» Built in AD 131, the arch served as the gateway between the ancient city of Athens and the newer section of the city built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Now, it stands beside Vassilisis Amalias Avenue, one of central Athens’s busiest streets. The marble used to build the arch was quarried on nearby Mount Pendeli, the same source used for the Parthenon. Columns crowned with elaborate Corinthian capitals support the monument’s central arch. Another series of Corinthian columns – similar to but smaller than those of the neighboring Temple of Olympian Zeus – tower over the top of the structure. Giraud said workers also must figure out how to restore the structure’s stability, since eight of the columns that adorned the monument were removed more than 250 years ago. Studies are expected to take about three months, with experts examining sample areas of about 50 percent of the monument. The results of this sample will provide an indication of what is needed to carry out work on the whole arch, Giraud said. The results will then be presented to the Culture Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council, on which Giraud sits, which will give the go-ahead for the actual restoration work to begin. Archaeologists hope to have completed at least some of the work before Athens hosts the Olympics in 2004. «If not in its entirety, the cleaning surely will happen before that,» Giraud said. The Culture Ministry aims to have completed a number of restoration projects by the 2004 Games. Earlier this month, archaeologists began dismantling the Temple of Athena Nike from the Acropolis piece by piece as part of restoration work they hope will be completed by 2004.