Seven metopes from the Parthenon in intensive care

The effects of atmospheric pollution have struck the Acropolis yet again. Seven ancient metopes on the western section of the entablature on the Parthenon’s northern colonnade are to be removed (although funds have not been found) and replaced by copies made out of artificial stone set by the Acropolis restoration staff. The originals are to be put in «intensive care» for restoration and then placed in the New Acropolis Museum. A proposal by the Acropolis Monuments Conservation Committee (after a study by Rosalia Christodoulopoulou) was approved by the Central Archaeological Council last month. Metopes Nos 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31 are to be taken down. As in all other such cases where parts of ancient monuments are removed, there was a heated debate regarding authenticity. According to the committee’s head, Haralambos Bouras, the issue is a formality. He reminded the council members that many foreign and Greek experts believe it is a «disgrace to leave antiquities to the mercy of acid rain, smog and the north wind.» There are eight metopes on the western end of the northern entablature, all of which are decorated with sculptures. Five of them are uncovered, while the three at the western end are protected by a cornice. The committee’s proposal follows the general principle applied in work on the Acropolis to replace sculptures and other sections that are removed with copies. This has already been done on the eastern end of the same entablature. The architectural parts of this area, according to the director of restoration, Dimosthenes Ziro, have cracks and other problems often encountered in monuments that have been restored in the past. The metopes in particular have cracks about halfway along their length, where there had once been transverse sections linking them with the inner stonework. Maria Ioannidou, head of the Acropolis restoration service, said that the work was necessary to save the monuments. As for the western end, which has not been touched, Bouras said it could not be taken down because because that would require demolishing the entire pediment, weighing dozens of tons, and «affecting the authenticity of the structure that no one has touched since antiquity.»

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