Project: Reviving the Ancient Agora, the Cradle of the Democracy
The purpose of the Project is the renovation of the Museum at the Stoa of Attalos, with the overall objective of preservation and promotion of the cultural heritage and historic role of the Athenian Agora. The Project Promoter is the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Subject to national law, the Project shall be implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism - 1st Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. The total cost of the project is 964.200€. The European Economic Area 2004-2009 Financial Mechanism will provide 50% of the funding and another 50% will be provided by the General Secretariat for Investments and Development, Hellenic Ministry of Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping. The Focal Point of the Ministry of Economy charged with the overall coordination of projects funded in Greece by the EEA Grant, shall ensure that the Greek Government provides at least 50 percent of the estimated eligible project cost.
The ASCSA also gratefully acknowledges the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for their additional support for the digitization of the records from the Athenian Agora excavations.
(Project photos at the bottom of this page)
The ancient Athenian Agora, northwest of the Acropolis, is part of the historic center of modern Athens and it is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Greek capital. The most impressive building along the eastern side of the ancient Athenian Agora was the Stoa of Attalos II, King of Pergamon (159-138 B.C.). The Stoa was a commercial centre of the time, housing various shops and also a place for social gathering and walks. It was destroyed in A.D. 267 by the Herulians. The excavation of the building was undertaken during the 19th century by the Greek Archaeological Society and completed later by the American School of Classical Studies. The Stoa of Attalos was restored between 1953 and 1956 by the American School to provide a museum, offices, and store rooms. The restoration was carried out in the same material as the original. The reconstruction stands on the original foundations and incorporates various ancient architectural fragments. All the finds from the excavations conducted in the Athenian Agora are housed in the Stoa of Attalos.
The museum’s current public galleries are located on the ground floor of the Stoa of Attalos and house the most important objects found during excavations. In 2004 the museum was modernized and the exhibition was reorganized by the Greek Archaeological Service which resulted in a spectacular increase in the number of visitors (650,000 visitors last year). In 2005, the Athenian Agora was awarded the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / “Europa Nostra” Awards.
The Athenian Agora has also hosted events of national and international interest, such as the ceremony on the occasion of the expansion of the European Union (2003), the torch ceremony of the Olympic Games (2004) and the ceremony of transmitting the flame of the Paraolympics (2004).
The first goal of this project is the renovation of the upper floor of the Stoa of Attalos and opening this space to the public. Modern architectural elements of the restored building will be cleaned and the partition wall that separates the open colonnade from the offices and storerooms will be replaced with a new transparent one. This will enable the visitors to view the areas where antiquities are stored, helping them to comprehend how the cultural heritage is protected, and better understand the role and function of museums in general. Additionally, an exhibition space will be created in the open colonnade of the upper floor to display additional antiquities from the museumâ€™s storerooms. This will effectively double the permanent exhibition space accessible to the public and provide an area for temporary exhibitions, educational programs, and lectures.
The second goal of this project involves the digitization of the material from the Athenian Agora Excavations. All the material recovered from the nearly 80 years of excavation in the Athenian Agora is stored in the Stoa of Attalos, making it a unique research facility. Every object has an excavation provenience and context. Records exist to tell where an object was found, when, and with what other material, all of which often has considerable bearing on our understanding of the date and function of any given piece. It should be emphasized that no other collection of this size anywhere in the world has this advantage. Since the beginning of the Athenian Agora Excavations, all the antiquities have been catalogued in a single, detailed, unified system of record-keeping. Most sites dug today are of course properly recorded, but they cannot match the Agora material in either scale or chronological range. Dissemination of information and proper publication of the excavated material has been a high priority throughout. There are fifty-seven published volumes and over 400 published articles concerning the material recovered in the excavations. In recent years, a major goal has been to digitize all these archaeological records and make them electronically accessible to researchers and to the public.
The third goal of this project will be the creation of a single integrated and coherent digital archive of all the archaeological resources at the Athenian Agora: from databases of antiquities, photographs, and architectural plans and drawings, to current excavation data, reports, and publications. This digital archive will be searchable and accessible from anywhere, freely available to the public, higher educational institutions, students of the classical world, and communities of classical enthusiasts everywhere.
The impact of the EEA grant will be improved public and digital access to the ancient Athenian Agora: the renovations of the upper colonnade will double the public exhibition space of the Stoa of Attalos and the digitization efforts will provide universal access to this significant European cultural heritage.
Digitizing the Agora archives
Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway support the digitization of the Agora archives in Athens, Greece.
Nowhere is the history of Athens so richly illustrated as in the Agora, the marketplace that was the focal point of public life. There have been 79 years since the inauguration of systematic excavations by the American School of Classical Studies on the site of the ancient Athenian Agora started. This has resulted in an archive that includes hundred of thousands of notebooks, photos and archeological artifacts.
Breaking the analogue wall
Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway support the digitization of the Agora archives. With a digitized archive the visitors of the site will have a new extraordinary experience. Today, while visiting an archeological site you walk around with the guide book. With a wireless network at the Agora, visitors can search for all the artifacts found at the exact spot they’re standing on, and will be able to read the notes written by the archeologists from the excavation. The digitization of the archive has already started, and you can view the object and read the notebooks online.
5000 years of history
Material from the Late Neolithic to modern times has been excavated, shedding light on 5,000 years of Athenian history. The Agora of Athens was the center of the ancient city: a large, open square where the citizens could assemble for a wide variety of purposes. On any given day the space might be used as a market, or for an election, a dramatic performance, a religious procession, military drill, or an athletic competition. Here administrative, political, judicial, commercial, social, cultural, and religious activities all found a place together in the heart of Athens, and the square was surrounded by the public buildings necessary to run the Athenian government. The majority of the Athenian population, which was slaves, did not have access to what is considered the cradle of democracy.
(Photos: Craig Mauzy, Agora Excavations, American School of Classical Studies at Athens)
Click on an image below to start the slideshow: