Wednesday 31 March 2010

(T) Economic Crisis and Archaeology in Greece

Delphoi, one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, is closed. Officially the reason is rock-slides that make the area of the stadium dangerous. The famous Castalia source has also been kept closed for the past 15 years for the same reasons.

The problem has always existed on the site and re-appears after every heavy rainfall. However, apart for some interventions that have been made on three points, there is no money even for mapping the situation and even less for a complete study that will finally solve the problem that in the past has even damaged the seats of the stadium. Apart for the official excuse, however, there is also an "unofficial" reason for keeping the site closed: "Lack of personnel" as the guardians admit...

The Archaeological museum of Herakleion on Crete, one of the most important museums, has also been closed for the past 3 years, leaving its approximately 246,000 annual visitors...out in the cold! There is no funding to complete its restoration, as 2,5 million Euros are already owed to the contractor. There is not even a budget calculated for the reopening of the exhibition, so that is could be incorporated in the EU support framework; at the same time an antagonism amongst the archaeologists chosen to set up the exhibition and the local Ephorate of Antiquities, does not help matters...

The result is that "the first European Civilisation" - the Minoan Civilisation - will be represented by just 400 exhibits - in a "temporary" exhibition in a structure that was originally destined to be a garage!

Sounio, the third most visited archaeological site of Attica (153.300 visitors in 2008) is also one of the most abandoned because of lack of funding.

If one of the thousands of visitors trips, he will easily fall from the cliff, as the barriers are inadequate. There are no toilets, and visitors daily form long queues to use those of the restaurant that functions on the site.

"The image that the site gives is disappointing", declared recently the Head of the 2nd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classic Antiquities, Ioanna Drakotou, speaking to the Central Archaeological Council.

As its sea access remains unguarded during the night, it is not impossible that during some nights it is home to Black Magic rituals, as indicated by "Strange remains" that turn up. The fortifications, which in antiquity had made Sounio one of the most important strongholds in Attica, are collapsing and are held up by metal posts, as the 100.000 Euros necessary for their restoration have yet to be found...And of course few are those who understand what the site looked like or what its importance was in antiquity. Not because of lack of excavations. And neither because the temple of Poseidon steal the show. But because the totallity of the site has not been beautified and organised so that visitors will comprehend that Sounio was a fortified settlement and not just an isolated sanctuary at the edge of Attica.

Not only sites that have no funding, but also some that have received funding face problems: An example is the Lyceum of Aristotle, a site that remains closed for the past 13 years, although it is one of the most important of Athens.

The study has been made, but the 4,5 million Euros granded by the Organism of Prediction of Football Games (OPAP) last April, seem too much to the Ministry for a roofing project - in the midst of an economic crisis (there are those who claim that the cost should be readjusted to 6 million).

So, in order to economise, instead of covering the remains of the Philosophical School created by Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander the Great, in 355 B.C. with a modern arched roof - a project that one the relative tender - "a different solution will be sought for the roofing, which will cost 1,8 million Euros", according to the General Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Lina Mendoni. And what about the Roofing Project that was never finished? In a large part it has already been paid for! Wasted money, as the special roofing was adjusted to the needs of this specific site and cannot be used elsewhere!

Source: Ta NEA, 31.03.2010
Translation/Adaptation: ArchaeologyMatters
See also: Greek heritage crumbles

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