ATHENA Project Raises Flag of Ancient Theaters in Euromed RegionSay Athena, and you think archaeology, Europe, cultural heritage andmore. Say ATHENA Project, the situation becomes more mysterious, butyou quickly learn it is linked to culture, ancient theaters, communicationand flow of cooperation and ideas between Europe and Arab countriesacross the Mediterranean.Named as the ATHENA Project of Ancient Theaters Enhancement forNew Actualities, this is a prodigious Euro-Med Heritage IV initiativefunded by the European Commission and supervised by its RegionalMonitoring and Support Unit (RMSU). The aim is to enthuse culturalinteraction across the Mediterranean countries involved in ancienttheaters development and their relationship with civil societyinstitutions and communities."We are taking a pro-active approach and providing technical support tothe projects underway, and encouraging the sharing of informationbetween the different partners including through the organization ofconferences, seminars and workshops on both sides of theMediterranean", says Christiane Dabdoub Nasser, RMSU Team Leader inBrussels, the home of the European Community.Five countries are taking part in the program that is at an advancedstage today, going through conceptualization and formulation phasesand is now entering steps of development through its differentarchaeological sites.Jordan, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria, and Spain are taking part where theirministries, academic institutions and research and scientific centers haveidentified ancient theater sites in their respective countries for workactions.The stakeholders include the Department of Antiquities of Jordan,Institut aux Etudes Litteraires et de Sciences Humaines de Tunis of theUniversity of Tunis, LaboBatiDanslEnvironment—University of Scienceand Technology, HouariBoumediene, Algeria, Universidad Politecnica deValencia—Instituto de Restauracion del Patrimonio in Spain and
Dipartimento di Rilievo, and disegnodellAmbiente e dellArchitettura(RADAAR) of the Sapienza Universita di Roma.They are working on the sites identified as: In Petra and Jarash Theaters(Jordan), Syracuse Theater (Italy), Carthage Theater (Tunisia), CherchellTheater (Algeria) and Merida Theaters (Spain).The ATHENA Project is strongly cooperative. Each of the institutions areresponsible through what are termed as six work packages. WorkPackage 1 which involves setting up the common scientific and culturalframe is led by the Tunisian partner.Word Package 2 is simply called knowledge and it is the Italian partnerresponsible for that and includes methods and actions, resourcedocumentation and classification.Work Package 3 involves outlining a sustainability strategy, priorities andcompatibility led by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan andincludes the collecting of data of previous Work Packages, designing theoverall picture of possible interventions to enhance the potentials ofsites across the ATHENA region.Work Package 4 seeks to set up a management plan for ancient theaterenhancement to create a model management plan for the rest of thecountries led by the Spanish partner.Work Package 5 is related to dissemination of information and capacitybuilding and involves communication and visibility including publicrelations activity, media, online, graphic layout, publications, workshopsand conferences. It is being developed to give extra awareness about theproject, its phases of development and importance for ancient theaters.The Italian partner supported by Jordan is also responsible for this WorkPackage.The final Work Package 6, Project Management and Quality Control, isunder the supervision of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan whichinvolves monitoring and guidance related to ATHENAs technical tasksand deliverables. These are the tangible actions of the final Project.
It’s a tight step-by-step methodology, fostering a new philosophy goingat the heart of sustainability of situating the role of ancient theaterswithin their surroundings and urban-cultural contexts and creating back-and-forth linkages with local communities.Experts say a delicate balance must be created between making surethese sites exist within the urban-cultural environs and the need tomaintain their preservation, restoration and integrity of the originalstructures."This is the first time an Arab country is leading a project within theEuromed initiatives", says Acting Director-General of the Department ofAntiquities Faris Al Hamoud. "It throws a positive light on the technicalcadres in the Kingdom, especially those related to archaeology", headds.Much knowledge collection and diffusion about heritage and restorationoccurred since the project began in 2009. The Mediterranean partnershave become involved in a mesh of working activities through Brusselsbut most importantly between themselves, discussing best methods,exchanging ideas, developing themes about ancient theaters across theconsortium."Ample networking and the spread of information is being done withour partners through the present communication and telephony systemsthrough the internet", says Project Manager Nizar Adarabeh, whomanages ATHENA from his office in the Department of Antiquities inAmman."I am in daily contact with our partners in Brussels, Rome, Spain andothers if need be, to touch base on the different work activities, and thesharing of information about best methods for the good of the projects",he adds.The fruits are beginning to bear. Jordan has already received a top-of-the-art 3D Laser Scanner and started working by surveying the sitesunder study, and creating top imagery photographs for documentation.
An Italian team especially flew to the sites in Jordan in March 2011 andtrained local cadres on the C10 scanners to allow them to make optimaluse out of the precision imagery graphics of ancient theaters.It was a field training with two top surveyors in the Department ofAntiquities instructed on the best use of the scanner by surveying thePetra and Jarash Theaters.As a result a training course was devised that will be used to train otherJordanian cadres and other members taking part in the ATHENAconsortium.Carlo Bianchini from the Sapienza Universita di Roma says: "The twoJordanian surveyors are travelling to Italy in March 2012 to continue thesecond stage of the training on data processing and how to producebest results and outcomes".But this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of regional cooperation astangible evidence is already being felt through for instance, themanagement plan that is being created by the Spanish partner. "ThePlan will at first be tested as a pilot project on Jarash, before it can serveas a model for the rest of the ATHENA countries", says Maria-TerasaDomenech from the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia.Everyone working on the ATHENA project is upbeat about thearchaeological dimensions in the restoration process. Greater work isexpected to be done in 2012 relating to the implementations of theproject in the region and boost cooperation between the countries ofthe Mediterranean.