Lasers Used to Clean Ancient Greek Statues

Replicas of the caryatid statues that replaced the originals due pollution concerns in 1979 at the Erechtheion temple on the Acropolis. Photo: Petros Giannakouris courtesy Associated Press.
Replicas of the caryatid statues that replaced the originals due pollution concerns in 1979 at the Erechtheion temple on the Acropolis. Photo: Petros Giannakouris courtesy Associated Press.

While visitors to the Acropolis Museum in Athens can still see the 2,500-year-old caryatid statues that once graced the porch of the Erechtheion temple on the Acropolis, the marble figures are currently undergoing a delicate restoration, reports CBC News.

Conservators are working on the ancient sculptures inside a white fabric box temporarily erected in the museum gallery. This serves the dual purpose of allowing visitors to watch their progress, and avoiding any potential damage during transportation.

The conservation process involves special technology developed by the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas in Crete. A laser beam employing two infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths disintegrates accumulated dust and grime on the statue without causing discoloration or abrasion to the stone.

Carved around 420 BCE, the caryatids survived the Greek war of independence (1821–33), despite significant damage to the Erechtheion, which was later reconstructed. The figures were moved to the museum in 1979 to protect the them from air pollution.

The restoration, which should be completed next month, has been ongoing since 2011. Each figure takes about seven months to clean.

 


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