Watch Conservationists Moving & Restoring an Exquisite Ancient Greek Mosaic

Raise a glass to the city of Dion on the East­ern slopes of Mount Olym­pus, con­sid­ered by the ancient Greeks a divine loca­tion, where Zeus held sway.

And while we’re at it, raise a glass to Zeus’ son, Diony­sus the god of fer­til­i­ty and the­ater, and most famous­ly, wine:

…hail to you, Diony­sus, god of abun­dant clus­ters! Grant that we may come again rejoic­ing to this sea­son, and from that sea­son onwards for many a year. — The Home­r­ic hymn to Diony­sus 

In the sum­mer of 1987, archae­ol­o­gists work­ing at an exca­va­tion site near the mod­ern vil­lage of Dion unearthed a mosa­ic of thou­sands of stone tes­sarae depict­ng “ivy-crowned Diony­sus, the loud-cry­ing god, splen­did son of Zeus and glo­ri­ous Semele,” rais­ing a drink­ing horn as he rides nude in a char­i­ot pulled by sea pan­thers.

1800 some years ear­li­er, it had adorned the floor of a sump­tu­ous villa’s ban­quet hall.

The vil­la was destroyed by fire, pos­si­bly as the result of an earth­quake, but a lay­er of rich Dion mud pre­served the mosa­ic in aston­ish­ing con­di­tion for near­ly two mil­len­nia.

A roof was erect­ed over the redis­cov­ered mur­al, with a foot­bridge on the perime­ter afford­ing the pub­lic excel­lent views for over twen­ty years.

Expo­sure to the ele­ments inevitably start­ed tak­ing a toll, with indi­vid­ual tiles melt­ing into the earth and plants spring­ing up in the cracks.

Using funds from the Onas­sis Foun­da­tion, the mosa­ic was reha­bil­i­tat­ed and relo­cat­ed to a spe­cial­ly designed, envi­ron­men­tal­ly-secure build­ing. 

The Onas­sis Foun­da­tion’s nar­ra­tion-free video above pro­vides a peek at the process, reduc­ing what must, at times, have been a supreme­ly nerve-wrack­ing 2‑year endeav­or to a pleas­ant sev­en-minute med­i­ta­tion, punc­tu­at­ed by bird­song and calm, coor­di­nat­ed group effort.

For those who pre­fer a more spe­cif­ic blow by blow, Rion Nakaya’s The Kid Should See This breaks down the con­ser­va­tion team’s efforts to divide the mur­al along a grid using drills, flat steel blades, and adhe­sive fab­ric, before sand­wich­ing the sec­tions between steel and wood­en plates for trans­port to their new home.

(We found the moment when the pro­tec­tive fab­ric is steamed away to be a par­tic­u­lar­ly har­row­ing thrill. )

Those who’d like to explore Dion’s trea­sures in depth might enjoy Onas­sis Foundation’s exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logue Gods and Mor­tals at Olym­pus: Ancient Dion, City of Zeus, edit­ed by the late arche­ol­o­gist  Dim­itrios Pan­der­malis, below.

Via The Kid Should See This

Relat­ed Con­tent

What Ancient Greek Music Sound­ed Like: Hear a Recon­struc­tion That is ‘100% Accu­rate’

Intro­duc­tion to Ancient Greek His­to­ry: A Free Online Course from Yale

Mythos: An Ani­ma­tion Retells Time­less Greek Myths with Abstract Mod­ern Designs

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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