The conservation team, Nicol Anastassatou, Charis Delis and Spyros Armenis, continues their work on the Agonotheteion mosaic with enthusiasm made possible by generous funding from the Stockman Family Foundation. They are now in the process of removing the mortar substratum, into which the tesserae were set initially, from each of the pieces of the mosaic. The mosaic was detached from the ground in September 2014. Almost half of the pieces have received this cleaning in preparation for the new substratum.
The team has had a lot of problems to solve. The most challenging and difficult is the preservation of the glass tesserae included in the scene, They had to be consolidated one by one because most of them were largely corroded and very fragile.
Difficulties aside, the conservators were pleasantly surprised while removing the lime-based mortar from the back side of the mosaic pieces. In one case, Charis saw what he initially thought a small pebble in the mortar. He soon realized it was not a pebble at all. Rather it was a stone bezel with an intaglio of a portrait, originally set in a finger ring!!!! Who was the owner of the ring and how did its stone get where it was found, in the mortar? Was it one of the workmen making the mortar? Did it belong to the patron who came to see how the works of the mosaic installation were progressing?
While Armenis and Delis were cleaning the most elaborately decorated central panel with the birds and plants, another surprise was awaiting them. Traces of red, black and yellow colors were detected on the mortar. Head conservator, Anastassatou, deems that samples of these mortars should be analyzed in the near future.
The room is currently being excavated in preparation for resetting the fully conserved mosaic.
See the progression of work in these two news pages (08/07/2014 and 10/16/2014).