The peplos scene
Depicted in the middle of the East Frieze is the most important, yet most enigmatic moment in the Panathenaic procession, the ceremony of handing over the peplos. The peplos, gift of the Athenians to the cult xoanon, the wooden statue of Athena, housed in the Erechtheion and thought to have been sent down from heaven by Zeus, was decorated with scenes from the Gigantomachy. It was woven by the ergastinai, young girls of noble familes who were chosen specifically for the task.
Five figures are shown in the scene of handing over the peplos. To the left stand three female figures wearing chiton and himation. The two young girls bear sacred stools upon their heads, the diphroi. The first also holds in her left hand an unknown object, perhaps a canister or foot-rest. The third, older and perhaps a priestess, leads the two girls and prepares to take the stool from the head of the second girl.
Beside them a venerable figure in long chiton, perhaps the King-Archon, and a boy with a himation flung over his left shoulder, together hold the peplos. There has been much discussion as to who is giving, who receiving the peplos in order to take it to the statue, the King–Archon to the boy or the boy to the King–Archon. In any case, it is the boy who stands next to the goddess Athena.