November 25, 2005

Is the Acropolis being washed away?

Posted at 6:36 pm in Acropolis

Unusually heavy rain & flooding in Greece has prompted suggestions that the seepage of water is damaging the foundations of the Acropolis. Archaeologists, architects & engineers involved in the current restoration works on the site all suggest that these suggestions are incorrect.

Middle East Times (Cairo)

Acropolis foundations threatened by seeping rainwater
November 25, 2005

ATHENS — Greek archaeologists worry that the foundations of the Acropolis monument are threatened by rainwater that has seeped into the soil of the ancient citadel, the Greek press said on Thursday.

Of most concern is the fifth-century BC Parthenon temple, whose roof was destroyed during a seventeenth-century siege of the Acropolis by Venetian forces.

“For centuries, rainwater could not penetrate the foundations,” Manolis Korres, an architect with extensive experience of the Acropolis restoration effort told a recent gathering of Greece’s state archaeological council.

“But in the wake of the roof’s collapse, water has been seeping into the floor supports and wearing down the rocks … the surface is retreating,” Korres said, according to a report in Eleftherotypia daily.

The threat of further damage has led experts to contemplate covering the Parthenon with a modern roof, Ta Nea daily said.

“We are closely following the problem,” Acropolis site supervisor Alkistis Horemi said. “Special machinery is used to monitor the walls surrounding the monument site at all times.”

Test drilling carried out on four occasions has discovered cavities under and around the Parthenon, said Korres. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that an ancient drainage system built into the site no longer functions.

The Acropolis, a World Heritage site, has been undergoing restoration for over 20 years. The majority of these works are expected to be completed by late 2006.

Monsters & Critics

Science News
Archaeologists say rain eroding Acropolis foundations
Nov 25, 2005, 19:05 GMT

Athens – Archaeologists conducting restoration work on the Acropolis said heavy rain is eroding the foundation of the ancient structure.

Restorers have spend decades replacing rusted iron clamps and cement inserts on the Acropolis’ three main monuments, the Parthenon, the Propylea and the temple of Athena Nike, after a misguided attempt to strengthen the temple was conducted earlier this century by Greek civil engineer Nikos Balanos.

In 1975, a team of archaeologists, architects and engineers launched an ambitious 25 million dollar restoration project.

Now restorers insist that rainwater seeping through cracks has caused its foundations to subside.

Architect Manolis Korres, in charge of the restoration, told experts from the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) earlier this week that the absence of a roof has allowed rain into the temple, thus eroding its foundations. He recommended erecting a roof above the 5th century BC monument to prevent any more damage.

‘Water has started trickling through the seams. This will increase when the temporary floor is removed,’ Korres was quoted as telling Greek media.

The government, on the other hand, said the stability of the temple was not in danger and ruled out the possibility of a roof being build.

‘Covering the whole temple floor with a temporary floor for the past 23 years has completely dried out the foundations so there is absolutely no danger,’ said deputy culture minister Petros Tatoulis.

Originally dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the patron goddess of Athens, the Parthenon has served as a pagan shrine, Christian church, citadel and mosque. Much of the northern colonnade was seriously damaged when the Venetians bombed it in an attack against the Turks in 1687.

The Parthenon’s run of bad luck continued when the British ambassador in Constantinople, Lord Elgin, removed a large part of the sculptural decoration of the monument and transferred them to England at the beginning of the 19th century. Dozens of friezes and metopes were sold to the British Museum, where they are still exhibited today.

The current restoration project is the third such attempt on the temple. The Ottomans tore the temple down in 1686 and used it as an artillery position. The pieces were discovered during an excavation in 1835, and the temple was reconstructed over a period of seven years.

In the late 1930s, Balamos had to dismantle and rebuild the temple owing to problems with the foundations.

On Friday, a 15-member International Committee for the Return of the Elgin Marbles visted Athens and met with Greek President Carolos Papoulias.

‘I hope that the marbles will be returned to Athens because the strong took them away from the weak,’ said Papoulias.

© dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Athens News Agency

Parthenon foundations not in danger

The foundations of the Parthenon temple, on Athens Acropolis, were in no danger whatsoever of land subsidence or erosion, deputy culture minister Petros Tatoulis assured on Friday, in reply to press articles.

An announcement issued by Tatoulis, citing the leading authority on the architecture of the Athenian Acropolis, Manolis Korres — who has played a major role in the study, conservation and restoration of the archaeological site’s monuments — in recent statements to the Central Archaological Council.

Korres told the Council that the full covering of the temple’s floors with temporary flooring has for 23 years fully insulated the foundations, resulting in there being absolutely no hazard at this time.

During older interventions on the Acropolis monuments in the early 1960s, archaeologist Anastasios Orlandos had replaced substantial sections of the Parthenon floors that had been destroyed with new marble, thus waterproofing the foundations, Tatoulis said.

With respect to possible erosion of the Parthenon, Tatloulis said that the issue had been taken up by the Conservation Committee for the Acropolis Momuments in the period 1983-85, ahead of te installation of a crane on the worsite inside the temple. He said a number of tests had been conducted, at large depths, and the conclusion had been that the Parthenon’s substructure was compact, with satisfactory tolerance to erosion.

Tatoulias explained that when the interventions on the Parthenon were completed, the temporary working floorng would be removed and the remaining gaps would be filled with new marble, at which time a review would be made to decide whether additional protection measures needed to be taken.

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