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Moving and restoring an ancient Greek mosaic

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The Mosaic of the Epiphany of Dionysus, a large stone mosaic illustrating the Greek god in a chariot pulled by panthers, dates back to the late-2nd and early 3rd century CE. It was unearthed from an ancient banquet hall in 1987 by archaeologists in Dion, Greece, a village near Mount Olympus.

The mosaic was moved to the local Archaeological Museum of Dion for restoration and protection between 2015 and 2017. This Onassis Foundation video documents that process:

In order to be able to divide the mosaic into several parts, the position and shape of the individual mosaic stones were first recorded on the intended dividing lines.

dion greece mosaic restoration

They were then removed. A special adhesive fabric and textile strips were applied to fix the remaining stones in their place. The mosaic was divided into several, transportable, plates. After that, these plates had to be separated from the underlying ground. At the edge, with long drills, close to each other, holes were drilled into the ground beneath the fixed object. With flat steel blades, which were cut into the holes at certain intervals, experts separated the mosaic from the ground. Then it was carefully raised to allow a suitable steel plate to be driven underneath.

dion greece mosaic restoration

The helpers covered the surface with a wooden plate. With several belt tensioners, the plates (steel plate and wooden plate) were fixed against each other so that no movement was possible during transportation. Via a ramp the parts, weighing up to 500 kg, reached a trailer and were transported to the Archaiothiki.

dion greece mosaic restoration

Meanwhile, in the Archaiothiki, a precise image of the entire mosaic was spread on the ground. It was made on a scale of 1:1 to show the restorers where to place each single part. In order to stabilize the mosaic stones, in the next step, the carrier layer under the mosaic was removed and replaced by mortar. With steam, the curators dissolved the special adhesive fabric and removed the attached protective materials.

dion greece mosaic restoration
Next: Installing massive statues with engineering and care at the Met, How art conservator Julian Baumgartner restores damaged paintings, and How Do You Dismantle a Dino? (Very Carefully).

Bonus: From Clay to Mosaics – How zellige (الزليج) mosaics are made.

h/t Aeon.

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