As a heatwave hits Greece, officials were forced to close the Acropolis Hill because of extreme heat, in order to protect visitors.
The highest point in the city of Athens is also home to numerous temples, including the Parthenon and the Erechtheion. The temple complex which is thousands of years old is one of the top tourist sights in the world and the most visited sight in Greece.
The monument was closed for four hours between 10:00am and 2:00pm local time, during which temperatures of 44 degrees celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit) were recorded.
The temperature is always higher on the Acropolis due to its altitude and its lack of shade.
“The meteorological service had forecast that the temperature felt on the hill would be forbidding, more than 44 degrees Celsius,” said a spokeswoman for the Acropolis complex.
Meanwhile, scientists discussed how climate change was threatening ancient monuments– including the Acropolis– at a conference in Greece.
Air pollution and acid rain are eroding marbles, while extreme weather phenomena such as droughts, extreme heat or torrential rains have brought on structural problems in dozens of monuments throughout Greece.
Even though the Acropolis hill, where the Parthenon stands, is probably Greece’s best preserved archaeological site, there are signs that climate change has been increasingly affecting the monuments that stand on the hill.
“The walls of the (ancient) city have more erosion than in the past,” Maria Vlazaki, General Secretary in the Greek Culture Ministry, told Reuters in a video interview.
For decades there have been efforts to preserve and protect the Acropolis and its monuments, an operation that has been sped up since the mid 1970s. But the country has hundreds if not thousands of exposed archaeological sites.
“Every year, we have more cases… We give more money, unexpected money to protect the walls of the (ancient) cities that had no problems before, to protect the coastal area,” Vlazaki said.
The wider Athens area has been hit hard by deadly floods and forest fires over the last decade. A 2007 forest fire in the Peloponnese peninsula threatened to destroy the temples and stadiums of ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games.
Christos Zerefos, a professor in the Academy of Athens said extreme weather events had become more frequent and the sudden swings from periods of flooding to drought were destabilizing the monuments.
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference on climate change and cultural heritage, Zerefos told Reuters Greece needed better shelter for its monuments, and a monitoring system that would help provide extra protection in case of extreme weather.
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