Woke up to a surprisingly warm day in late winter, taking abnormally uncrowded public transport from Elefsina to Acropolis station, which was perfect to pass the time with an engaging book. I caught up with the Museum Management class inside the Acropolis museum, stepping in on Dr Nota Pantzou’s description on finding hidden clues about how artefacts and statues were used, and what their imperfections could tell us about the people that handled them. We were taken through the museum investigating management responses to modern times, such as a new display of tools for marble carving, or recently exhibited replicas of ancient statues showing original colours.
The next museum to see was the Athens University History Museum, which was reachable from the Acropolis Museum over a sloped, narrow road, and a great surrounding view of the Acropolis and Lykavittos Hill. The museum contained registries, paintings, monuments and laboratory equipment of the first university in Athens. The museum’s life is heightened by the organisation of educational programmes and cultural events performed within the museum’s unique courtyards.
After a downhill walk past the Roman Agora, passing street musicians and merchants, through to Thissio – where one can spot the Temple of Hephaestus sitting majestically within the Ancient Agora – the Public Archaeology tour had just begun. Our lecturer Dr Stelios Lekakis walked us to the starting point of our journey up the Eridanos river, seen at the centre of the Kerameikos archaeological site. A narrative of public occupation throughout ancient to modern times was told, as we walked past Roman attempts at river and road engineering, modern day flood management (would have preferred the Roman attempts), and 19th-20th century architecture such as the Eclectic and Neo-Classical style, seamlessly infused within contemporary buildings. Our bodies were walking on modern streets, but our minds were centred on the millennia of stratified urban construction hiding away a once majestic river, with only the occasional olive tree pointing us in the right direction. We also arrived just in time to witness the disciplined “Changing of the Guards” in front of Parliament in Syntagma square.
After an uphill stroll past Syntagma and Kolonaki, passing many archaeological sites oblivious to the public eye, we finally reached the exact location of the old spring that used to heavily feed the Eridanos river. Unfortunately it has now been built over by a pompous building, inside of which holds a fountain. From an urban perspective however, the natural topography that nurtured Athens’ ancient rivers could still be recognised from downhill views between city structures. So it was a bittersweet ending to the tour, teaching us how to investigate the past through a microscope on public space. We took a much deserved and very relaxing coffee at a lovely cafe nearby, reliving the day’s events and having a laugh or two.
Photos by Alex Costas
Michael Williams, BA in Ancient History, GDip in Maritime Archaeology. Particularly interested in Maritime Heritage of the ancient Mediterranean. I have worked in Indigenous Aboriginal sites around New South Wales and in underwater sites in Port Macdonnell. Experience with archaeological drawing.