Athens Metro: When History and Engineering Intersect

March 15, 2016

Consistently ranked as one of the top ten subways in the world, Athens is considered one of the most unique metro systems in the world.

Ahead of the 2004 Summer Olympics, a Bechtel-led team was chosen to deliver Athens two new subway lines. 

As tunneling began on this project, artifacts were discovered and archaeologists were called in to examine and excavate pieces of history. Teams of archaeologists would work ahead of the tunneling crews to preserve new discoveries, and project engineers assisted by providing georadar underground images. This created a unique partnership between engineers and archaeologists.

"Engineers count in days, while archaeologists count in centuries," said Leonides Kikiras, chairman of Attiko Metro, the Greek state-backed project owner. "But the two groups...realized that they offered each other something valuable. The archaeologists lent us their knowledge of history, which made planning easier, and we offered the scholars a wealth of findings."

Artifacts from the classical Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods came from sites flanking the Acropolis. Discoveries included ancient streets, houses, cemeteries, foundry pits, kilns and cisterns were discovered in the excavation. The project team partnered with the Greek Ministry of Culture to preserve 30,000 artifacts. Today these treasures are on display in six different Metro Stations and in the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens.

Since opening the Athens Metro has provided passengers with dramatically shorter commute times, displaced some 375,000 cars per day from the capital city's congested streets, and curbed pollution at the same time. The metro serves 938,000 passengers daily and the older ISAP railway serves approximately 460,000 passengers. 

This video shows some of the artifacts being displayed in the metro stations:

Tags: Olympics, rail
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