Monday, March 7, 2011

New threatens old... Rome

Florence is divided over plans to build a 4mi train tunnel and 6-level underground train station as part of a $1.9-billion project to improve the links with Rome and Milan. The tunnel will pass within 2,000' of the statue of David by Michelangelo (1475-1564). It is believed that vibrations from the construction will cause the 17' sculpture - already riddled with tiny cracks and under intense strain from the tourists and traffic - to topple. "The risk of collapse...will be very high if the resonance caused by excavation machinery for the high-speed train tunnel, as well as the vibrations of passing trains, are added to existing vibrations caused by visitors," says Fernando De Simone, an expert in underground engineering. He has called on the authorities to move the iconic David (images above) to a specially-built new museum, which should be designed to withstand tremors from the earthquakes to which the region is prone. The sculpture has been moved once before, in 1873, due to concern that it was being damaged by the grime and rain of its outdoor location. Alternatively, Italian art critic
Vittorio Sgarbi calls for the train tunnel project to be shelved entirely. "Our heritage should come before everything else. The excavation work should not go ahead."

...and in Athens

Construction on the northwestern slope of the Acropolis to renovate Greece's aging Piraeus-Kifissia electric railway (ISAP) has pitted archaeologists against those who want to update the infrastructure. Renovations to the rails have revealed the remnants of what is believed the be the Altar of the Twelve Gods. According to Greek historian Thucydides (c. 460 B.C.-c. 395 B.C.), the 6th c. altar was a landmark that stood at the very center of ancient Athens. Small sections of the altar were brought to light when the ISAP was constructed in 1891 when workers dug trenches to build supporting walls, but their significance wasn't realized until 1934. The find is is almost completely buried under the lines of the ISAP, which is not willing to give archaeologists the time they need to survey, study, and collect evidence from the site. The archaeologists are asking that the train tracks be elevated or diverted, or at least that they be allowed to move the altar. They believe that reburying the Altar of the Twelve Gods sends the wrong message and sets a bad precedent. “We have a duty to ourselves, to our children and to the rest of the world, and especially to western civilizations, whose roots we like to brag lay here,” says researcher Androniki Makri. In the words of Angelos Matthaiou, secretary of the Hellenic Epigraphical Society, “It is tantamount to admitting, as a society, that we have failed to do our duty, that we have allowed others to dictate how we manage our ancient legacy and have given in to those who have sold their consciences in exchange for material goods.”

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