An island-archaeological park ‘breathes’ again

Delos has stood proud for centuries, open to the winds and drenched in sunlight almost every day of the year, forsaken by specialists and others yet always admirable. In October 2017, Delos started breathing again. Eople and machines arrived on the island to put in order the scattered material of the monument that once illuminated the entire known world.

The preliminary phase revealed many times more architectural fragments than expected

The first outcomes of the preliminary tasks are positive if not spectacular, adding much to our scientific knowledge on the surviving architectural material of the monument. Large areas in and around the edifice have been cleared and the elements that make up the architectural material have been arranged, at least provisionally, enhancing the look of the archaeological site which hitherto left one with a sense of abandonment.

The surviving architectural members are many times more than originally estimated, which means revisions for the restoration plans for the famous Stoa of Philip II. The restoration experts’ information on the ancient monument is now richer, and they have much more genuine ancient material to use in the final phase of the restoration, the end result of which will gain a lot in authenticity and aesthetic quality.

Although the more-than-doubled amount of architectural fragments is great news, it also has a negative impact on the originally planned scheduled and the budget. It is now clear that there will be delays in the restoration, due to the increased preliminary work in recording and classifying the large number of elements, most of which come from the lower part of the edifice, the crepidoma and the stylobate, where the use of new material had been envisaged.

The 170 ancient fragments now identified can be used in the restoration of the stylobate with the addition of new material. This reduces somewhat the bulk of the order for marble, but necessitates 3D renderings of the ancient fragments so that the missing parts can be built and fitted. An added ‘problem’ is handling the ancient material not to be used in the restoration; the higher-than-envisaged number of fragments need to be classified and laid out over a larger surface.

The progress of the restoration is encouraging, and already seems to attract visitors’ interest in the monument, as it was evidenced by all those who were on the island while work was carried out in the Stoa. Visitors to Delos could see that a major project was in progress and this could not fail to trigger their curiosity or even their excitement.