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06 May, 1999
The five remaining ancient marble lions on Delos will be moved to an Athens museum to save them from further damage, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) decided yesterday.
The lions, thought to date back to the 6th and 7th centuries BC and discovered a century ago, will be housed at the National Archaeological Museum.
Strong Cycladic winds and corrosive sea air have damaged the lions. Only five are in reasonable condition today, while only half of another two can be saved and a further three are in fragments.
The sculptures were originally scheduled to be moved in February but adverse weather conditions and concerns about how the transfer would be carried out delayed the operation.
Archaeologists have expressed concern about the degenerating condition of the marble lions for some time. They first requested their removal to the museum in 1992.
One member of the council voted against the move, saying that the lions had to be saved but not to the cost of the aesthetic unity of the site.
Replicas of the statues will be placed along the road the lions guard on the sacred island of Delos. The "Lions Way" is a popular draw-card for the thousands of tourist who visit the small islet off Mykonos annually.
Delos, which has been described as "a floating archaeological site", is visited by thousands of tourists every year. Only a handful of museum guards and the staff of a small hostel for archaeologists inhabit it.
According to mythology, Poseidon, god of the seas, raised Delos from the seabed. Archaeological findings show that it was inhabited as far back as the early Bronze Age (around 2000 BC). By the second and first centuries BC, the island had become one of the chief trading and religious centers of the eastern Mediterranean.
Apart from the impressive row of lions, its numerous archaeological sites have yielded a large number of ancient temples, villas and magnificent sculptures.
Source: Athens News Agency