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The International Writers Magazine: Heritage Issues

ATHENA Project Raises Flag of Ancient Theaters in Euromed Region
• Marwan Asmar
Say Athena, and you think archaeology, Europe, cultural heritage and cooperation. The ATHENA Project of Ancient Theaters Enhancement for New Actualities is an impressive project funded by the European Commission under the Euro-Med Heritage IV program. The aim is interaction across the Mediterranean countries involved in ancient theaters development and their relationship with civil society institutions and communities.

Athena Project

Five partner countries are taking part. Jordan, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria, and Spain through their ministries, academic institutions and research and scientific centers.

These are the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Institut aux Etudes Litteraires et de Sciences Humaines de Tunis of the University of Tunis, Labo Bati Dans l’Environment—University of Science and Technology, Houari Boumediene, Algeria, Universidad Politecnica de Valencia—Instituto  de Restauracion del Patrimonio in Spain and Dipartimento di Rilievo, and disegno dell’Ambiente e dell’Architettura (RADAAR), Sapienza Universita di Roma.  Jordan is the overall coordinator of the Project. “This is the first time an Arab country is leading a project within the Euromed initiatives”, says Acting Director-General of the Department of Antiquities Faris Al Hmoud.

Sites identified include Petra and Jarash Theaters (Jordan), Siracusa Theater (Italy), Carthage Theater (Tunisia), Cherchell Theater (Algeria) and Merida Theaters (Spain).

The ATHENA Project is strongly cooperative with each partner country working together to enhance the management and preservation of ancient theaters through creating plans, 3D documentation, and usage manuals and charters. The work involves gathering knowledge on the different sites, design, implementation and management.  It’s a tight step-by-step methodology going to the heart of sustainability and situating ancient theaters in their surroundings and urban-cultural contexts.
Experts say there must be a delicate balance between making sure these sites exist within the urban-cultural environs and the need to maintain their preservation, restoration and integrity of their original structures.  “Ample networking and the spread of information is being done with our partners through different means”, says Project Manager Nizar Adarbeh, who manages ATHENA from his office in the Department of Antiquities in Amman.

It is bearing fruit. Jordan has already received a top-of-the-art 3D Laser Scanner and started to be in use by surveying the sites under study. An Italian team flew to the sites in Jordan in March 2011 and trained local cadres on the C10 scanner for optimal use and precision graphics of ancient theaters.  A training course was devised as a result to train other Jordanian cadres and members in the ATHENA consortium. Two Jordanian surveyors are travelling to Italy in March 2012 to continue the second stage of the training on data processing.

This is the tip of the iceberg with tangible regional cooperation already being felt through for instance, the management plan drawn up by the Spanish partner as a model for the rest of the ATHENA countries but will first be tested as a pilot project in Jarash.  Everyone working on the ATHENA project is upbeat. Greater work is expected to continue in 2012 relating to the implementations of the project and boost cooperation between the countries of the Mediterranean.

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