Thoughts on the Greek Economic Crisis (and how foreign archaeologists might help)

Just a few thoughts on how foreign archaeologists and schools might aid in the current crisis… I am only a graduate student, with with limited knowledge of the administration of the foreign schools and the Department of Antiquities, so these are only offered as the roughest of ideas:

I could be mistaken, but outside of the normal 3 excavation permits per year per Foreign School, doesn’t the Department at times grant some sort of “rescue” permit with a 3 year limit specifically for the purpose of foreign projects aiding in the preservation of threatened sites? Could lists of immediately threatened sites be produced, and foreign teams put together with experience in a given period or region that could then offer their services at whatever site the Department
felt most needing?

It seems that the long-term major excavations of the Foreign schools, such as the Athenian Agora, Corinth, Lefkandi, Knossos, Tiryns, Olympia (to name a few) must be quite expensive, and are at sites that are perhaps not at such immediate risk. Likewise, these projects entail the work of a veritable army of students, specialists, and scholars, whose efforts could be directed temporarily and productively elsewhere. I don’t mean in any way to suggest that these sorts of projects aren’t of tremendous value, both scholarly and for continued tourism, but only that the immediate economic situation may call for
us to reassess where our efforts and monetary resources are best directed in the short term. The major ongoing excavations are at sites that will still be there in 5 years, while we are all, rightfully, aghast at the loss of sites we didn’t even know existed!

With news of the layoffs and pay cuts at the main Department and the local Ephorates of experienced scholars and field archaeologists, who (if I read the NYT article correctly) even at the best of times made less a year than a well-paid post-doc at an American university, shouldn’t we be exploring alternative cooperative funding and hiring practices? For example, might a system be developed where foreign “rescue” projects are responsible for paying the salary of the Ephorate archaeologist assigned to monitor or even co-direct their project? If two or three projects operating in the same region coordinated their work schedules, they could provide 3 months or more of continuous full-time contract work for a Greek archaeologist, while simultaneously benefiting from a wealth of experience and knowledge. By providing funds for the hiring of Greek archaeologists on contract, we would be providing much needed employment opportunities and reducing the workload on the Ephorates.

Another thought is that if plowing and bulldozing in order to prepare fields for the sowing of fodder is such a widespread problem, an educational campaign within the country could be funded with international cooperation. It is my understanding that the optimal plowing depth in limestone rich soils for the sowing of legumes and grasses is only 9 inches, a depth which if adhered to would minimize the damage to underlying cultural deposits. We cannot expect farmers not to plant the crops needed to feed their animals, but education and an appeal to their pride in their cultural patrimony might go a long
way towards better agricultural practices.

(This article was written as an email to the AegeaNet mailing list, prompted by a discussion surrounding this recent NYT article: “Archaeologists Say Greek Antiquities Threatened by Austerity”


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