But on the top floor of the new Acropolis Museum, Greece’s counter-argument — that the sculptures were looted from a work of art so important that the surviving pieces should all be exhibited together — is eloquently laid out.

The glass hall with a panoramic view across Athens and the Parthenon itself displays the section of the frieze that Elgin’s agents left behind, joined to plaster casts of the 90-odd works in London.

The soft brownish patina of the original marble contrasts starkly with the bright white of the copies: battle scenes are cut jaggedly in half, with the torso and heads of warriors and horses in London and the legs in Athens.

“It is like looking at a family picture and seeing images of loved ones far away or lost to us,” Samaras said.

With about 150,000 square feet of exhibition space, the new museum holds more than 4,000 ancient works, many of them never displayed before due to lack of space in the cramped old museum that sat atop the Acropolis hill. Most left the citadel for the first time in late 2007, during a meticulously choreographed operation using a relay of cranes.

Now visitors can walk among freestanding statues and reliefs with surviving traces of paint; view fragments of sculptures and coins still bearing scorch marks from the Persians’ sacking of the city in 480 B.C.; gaze through three stories of glass floors straight into the foundations, where construction revealed an entire neighborhood of ancient and early Christian Athens.

From MSNBC; excerpts, edited by Ellopos Blog