The Altar of Zeus
The Agora Excavations began with the aim of revealing the monuments and history of the ancient Agora. Of course, every artifact or feature that was exposed held importance, but when something extraordinary was brought to light, its discovery generated great excitement.
On July 23, 1931, the excavator filled five pages of his notebook describing a significant discovery of the first excavation season: "A large structure once covered a large part of [the] area, it was almost certainly an Altar." A few pages later he added another entry describing an "Altar Block: the large block of white marble with moulding above and below; shown on photos p. 507" (Nb. Ε III, pp. 503–507). The altar was later identified as the Altar of Zeus Agoraios, an important ancient monument believed to have been erected first on the Pnyx in the 4th century B.C. and later dismantled and re-erected at the turn of the millenium in its present location.
The Statue of Hadrian
Inevitably something is found at the end of the excavation season that must be left for the next season to fully explore. Just a few days after the discovery of the Altar of Zeus Agoraios, exploration of the Great Drain was progressing on the west side of Section Ε when the excavator noted another surprising find: “Digging away earth between cover slab and this block was found Statue of Roman Emperor, preserved from just below kilt to about shoulders, lying at a slant, lower part resting on low end of the fallen cover slab and body slanting down and outward to E.”
The difficulty of making a fuller description and taking photographs is apparent in a later comment, “Earth roof must be supported and large block broken and removed before statue can be taken out” (Nb. Ε III, p. 518). The statue would remain lying in the ground until it could be properly excavated and removed at the beginning of the following season.