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Archaeology In Athens Metro Stations

The construction of the Athens metro system between 1993 and 2000 facilitated the largest programme of archaeological excavations ever carried out in Greece. Builders were warned of the consequences from the start, and so were forced to adopt special measures. In all 50,000 ancient artefacts in numerous archaeological features were recovered from depths varying from 0.5 m to 45 m below the surface. Artefacts include all manner of objects used in daily life, such as ceramic vessels and toys. Excavators encountered wells, funerary structures and even parts of one of Athens’ oldest bridges. A number of metro stations now display some of these finds. Numerous construction projects in Athens result in more archaeology recovered, including the new international airport.

Metro Stations in Athens With Archaeology on Display


As the main metro station for the Acropolis monument it is perhaps not surprising to see replicas of sculptures from the Parthenon on the station concourse and platforms. An area of about 2500 m2 was excavated here, with evidence of human habitation from the 3rd millennium BC to Byzantine times. A large display case shows a range of artefacts recovered. One dramatic photo reproduced life size in one of the passages to the platforms shows how tunnelling activity breeched an ancient well that had been filled – with Byzantine pots, intact and broken, and other objects. The photo shows the artefacts tumbled out on to the tunnel floor.


In the Dafni Metro Station the stratigraphic section of the archaeological excavation has been reconstructed. The section shows the successive layers of human activity at this location on the road that ran between Athens and Sounion from the 3rd millennium BC to the recent past. At the centre of this site is a river bed that was covered over in the 1970s. On the banks of this river are the remains of domestic and agricultural activities, including wells in the early periods to a retaining wall in the Roman period. The successive layers were able to be dated by the diagnostic pottery in each layer.


Excavations on the site of Egaleo Metro Station revealed a section of the Sacred Way, as well as a roadside cemetery. The ancient road, that had both political and religious significance, started at the Scared Gate in Kerameikos and ended at the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis. A modern road, Iera Odos, still follows this route. Near the entrance to the station the section of the scared way is exposed under a protective covering, with the stone sarcophagus in place. Cabinets inside the station display ceramic urns recovered in the excavations make in an exhibit about burial customs in Ancient Athens.


During the construction of the Eleonas Metro Station remains of an ancient bridge were uncovered. The bridge traversed the Kifissos River, one of Attica’s main rivers, even in ancient times. The modern river is 1200 m to the eats, and has been covered over since 1961 because it was prone to flooding. The remnants of the bridge include three bases of the foundations of arches – the bridge had five arches in total, and a few blocks from the arches. The stones were cut from limestone and have survived to four courses. Understandably, the blocks are quite weathering due to the flow of water. Today they are under protective cover at the entrance to the station.


Archaeological excavations in preparation for the construction of the Evangelismos Metro Station provided interesting information about life in the eastern part of the ancient city. The exhibit centres on a reconstruction of the stratigraphy of the site, complemented by display cases of the more significant artefacts. Sadly the gold grave goods found in a Roman era marble sarcophagus are not included. Part of the excavated area was a cemetery and its surrounding walls – 35 burials were uncovered. Other features include a section of one of ancient Athens’ artery roads, a section of a 6th century BC water supply system and a pottery workshop that was in use from the 2nd century BC until at least the 1st century AD.


Excavations for the Monastiraki Metro Station revealed habitation from the Mycenaean period to the 19th century. These included residential buildings, workshops, graves as well as water supply and sewage systems. But the most interesting find was the vaulted bed of Iridanos River. The Iridanos had its source at Lycabettus hill, running through Athens into the Ilissos River. In the 4th century BC it was bounded by large blocks of rock. During the reign of Hadrian (117 – 138 AD) the Iridanos River was vaulted with brick, covered and turn into a sewer. This section of the excavation has been let exposed with a very informative panel showing the archaeological section.


The display cabinets in Panepistimo Metro Station display ceramic coffins and various grave goods recovered from a series of excavations near the metro station. An extensive cemetery was located in this the north eastern part of the ancient city, just outside the city walls. The cemetery started being used in the 5th century BC and remained in use up until at least the 4th century AD. In one excavation 38 graves were uncovered, in another 188 burials were excavated. There is an extraordinary range of ceramic vessels on display, including beautifully perfume vessels from the 5th century BC, to 4th century amphorae and clay lamps.


This busy and large metro station at the top of Syntagma Square has a lot for visitors to see. There are display cases within the station and reconstructions of archaeological features outside the station. These displays bring together the artefacts from a few shafts that were created in the vicinity of the station. Numerous features of diverse ages were found, including a Classical era sculpture foundry, a cemetery that was used in sub-Mycenaean and Byzantine times, a Roman bath complex dating back to the roman times, a section of the Peisistranian Aqueduct, a section of the bed of Iridanos River, and a part of an ancient road that lead away from the gates in the city wall.

More Construction Related Displays in Athens

Athens International Airport Museum

In the main terminal of the Athens International Airport there are three permanent exhibitions, free to visit. The first is an exhibition of the archaeology found during the construction of the airport in the Mesogaia area. On display are 172 archaeological artefacts from the Neolithic to the Post-Byzantine period. A small area with a few replicas and digital displays covers the Acropolis Museum. A third multimedia presentation explores Eleftherios Venizelos’ role in forming the modern Greek nation as well as its aviation ministry.

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