Old Is New Again in Athens

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The Caryatids, a clique of statuesque ladies that once supported the roof of the Acropolis’s Erechtheion, stand more beautiful than ever after a three-year makeover.

The ancient treasures were restored using technology developed by the Acropolis Museum in Athens. Working on-site, scientists applied infrared and ultraviolet lasers to peel off layers of grime without damaging the caryatids’ intricate hairstyles and elegantly draped attire.

Radiant Relics: Through digital reconstructions based on 3-D scanning, scientists also revealed how the Parthenon frieze originally looked: decorated with copper attachments and pigmented with lapis and cinnabar. The multicolored relief—found in the Acropolis compound—depicts a procession honoring Athena, the patron goddess of the Greek capital.

Early Birds: The museum restaurant serves breakfast with a Greek flair: iced tea with saffron, lemon, and spearmint and pancakes topped with grape molasses and tahini. From the terrace, you can almost reach out and touch the Parthenon.

  • Travel Trivia: Legend holds that after British ambassador Lord Elgin carted off a caryatid, the other five could be heard lamenting their lost sister.

This piece, written by Rachel Howard, appeared in the November 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

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