Reconnecting a fragmented monument through digital mapping

(Dipylon – Society for the Study of Ancient Topography, Athens, Greece)

Keywords: rescue archaeology, GIS, historical maps, repeat photography

The fortifications of Athens have been a recurrent theme of archaeological investigation and a dominating feature in the early historical maps of the city. In the past two centuries, and especially during the two building booms of Athens (mid-19th and post mid-20th century), parts of the walls have been located during rescue interventions in numerous sites in the urban fabric.
At present, the visibility of the entire monument remains rather low as the traces of the walls are hidden beneath the modern city, marginalized within larger archaeological sites or preserved entirely by record. Despite the high level of scholarly work devoted to synthesise the available material (e.g. excavation reports), the volume of information that has accumulated over the years requires a novel approach that would systematise different types of evidence using digital media.
In this respect, we attempt to revisit the ancient walls of Athens through the use of geospatial technologies, historical cartography and repeat photography. Our research employs published and archival material (e.g. excavation drawings, representations, maps) and digital data re-use (e.g. consolidation of existing spatial digital datasets). We target the informed development of an efficient GIS platform to record, store, integrate, explore and eventually disseminate resources on the Athenian fortifications that could further serve as a sound infrastructure to record the history of urban archaeology in Athens.
We have used early aerial imagery and cadastral maps to ensure more accurate registration of the first historical maps depicting the remains of the ancient city wall, and we have proceeded in greater resolution by georeferencing old excavation plans using their contemporary plot configuration. In this presentation we will focus on the problems encountered, the breakthroughs achieved and the ideas that have emerged in our approach to urban archaeology as an active and dynamic layer in the city palimpsest.

Relevance conference / Relevance session:
A case study for enhancing urban archaeology results through data integration from multiple sources.

Combination of geospatial technologies, historical maps and repeat photography to identify archaeological remains and track different phases in their recent history as heritage assets.


  1. Grava M., 2012. An information layer for the historical mapping of Pisa, in MapPapers 6EN-II, pp. 235-246
  2. Theocharaki, A. M. 2011. The Ancient Circuit Wall of Athens: Its Changing Course and the Phases of Construction, Hesperia 80 (1), 71-156