ATHENS, Greece — Standing near the foot of the Acropolis, it once separated the old from the new city of Athens. Now, restorers hope to help Hadrian's Arch regain some of its former glory.
Scaffolding is wrapped around half of the Roman monument, with workers busily huddled over plans. Archaeologists are examining the Pentelic marble arch to determine the best method of restoring, cleaning and protecting it.
"Restorers will study the problem of pollution that has settled on the arch and how this could be removed in the most painless way," Dimosthenis Giraud, who heads the restoration effort, said Monday. "The restorers will see how to deal will serious cracks."
Built in 131 A.D., the arch served as the gateway between the ancient Greek city of Athens and the newer section to the city built by the Roman emperor Hadrian. Now, it stands beside one of central Athens' busiest streets.
The marble used to build the arch was mined on nearby Mount Penteli, the same source used for the Parthenon.
Columns crowned with elaborate Corinthian capitals support the monument's central arch. Another series of Corinthian columns — similar but smaller than those of the neighboring temple of Zeus — tower over the top of the structure.
Giraud said workers also must figure out how to restore the structure's stability, since eight of the columns that adorned the monument were removed more than 250 years ago.
Studies are expected to take about three months, with experts examining sample areas of about half of the monument. The results of this sample will provide an indication of what is needed to carry out work on the whole arch, Giraud said.
The results will then be presented to the Central Archaeological Council, which will give the go-ahead for the actual restoration work. Archaeologists hope to have completed at least some of the work before Athens hosts the Olympic Games.
The culture ministry aims to have completed a number of restoration projects by the 2004 Games. Earlier this month archaeologists began dismantling the Temple of Athena Nike from the Acropolis piece by piece as part of restoration work.