The process of excavating an archaeological site is essentially destructive but the irrevocable features are preserved in a notebook. The excavator records his thoughts and observations, and uses drawings and photographs to supplement the text. After an excavation has concluded, scholars rely on the notebook to study the excavation, and it is through the notebooks that we may reconstruct the initial days of work in the Athenian Agora.
The first two pages of Nb. Ε I, dated April 20, 1931. Pasted on the first page are contact prints of images of the first building to be demolished before excavation of the area could begin. An entry notes, “Contractor began the demolition of House 21, Block 631 (Section E) this morning. In the walls was found a piece of coarse moulding: Pentelic marble.”
The first building to be demolished, House 21, Block 631 (Section Ε). View looking north along Patousa Street.
House 21 at the end of the first day of demolition
A view looking east from the Hephaisteion on April 27, 1931. The accompanying notebook entry reads, “The walls of the upper storey of House 20 fall a prey to the minions of the εργολάβοϚ [contractor]” (Nb. Ε 1, p. 18.)
Fragments of many sculptures and architectural pieces were found in the walls of the buildings that were being demolished. The first catalogued pieces of the Architecture and Sculpture series were retrieved during the demolition of House 21. This is not surprising as the modern city was built on top of the ancient and the antiquities were easily available sources of building materials.
“By the end of the day most of the walls above the first floor of House 21 had been razed. From the walls: the thigh of a statue of Pentelic marble, rather micaceous. Perhaps a trifle over life-size” (Nb. Ε I, p. 4; April 21, 1931).