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Amphipolis residents - up in arms for the tomb

15 August 2015 / 22:08:50  GRReporter
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A year after its excavation, the Amphipolis tomb finds itself in the epicentre of a fight among archaeologists. This creates the risk of the archaeological monument being demeaned. This is what the locals think, and they see the monument as a draw for tourists in the future.

The first anniversary of the discovery was marked by the publication of a report drawn up on behalf of the Ministry of Culture by a group of archaeologists belonging to the opponents of the excavations leader, Katerina Peristeri. This explains the rebuttal of her claims that the tomb is from the Macedonian era and belonged to someone important. The report asserts that in fact the monument dates to the late Hellenistic years.

The Ministry of Culture openly entered the archaeological fray by coming up with an official statement crucifying Peristeri and her team and claiming that "the tomb of the Casta hill in Amphipolis has become the subject of quick excavation practices for the sake of TV coverage within short clips of time." Peristeri reacted angrily dismissing this claim before Kathimerini. She said she was ready to present new data that support her argument that the tomb goes further back to the last quarter of the 4th century BC, i.e. to the time of the Macedonian dynasty.

People in Amphipolis are viewing the whole demeaning campaign as a stab in the back. Some of them believe that this is being done for political reasons. They say that unless the works are put on the fast track, the place made accessible to visitors, and the archaeological war terminated, their hopes for tourism and a business boost might be doomed.

"We demand respect for the monument and recommend patience, they shouldn't rush it," says local Alexandros Kochliaridis. He is a security guard at the archaeological museum and the Casta hill excavation works. "The government might just as well carry on ditching the tomb, but when they come over here trying to raise votes in our villages – that'll be the day," says a local in the village of Rodolivos.

A spike in visitors

Many people keep coming to Amphipolis today, although the site no longer basks in the rays of publicity as it did last year. According to Kochliaridis visitors have increased by 100% since last year. "A great deal of tourists drop by, more than 500 people come to the museum and the hill every day. And everybody wonders why the tomb is not accessible yet," says a guy from Ofrinio near Kavala, who peddles olives right in front of the marble lion.

"We got a huge increase in visitors, we have become recognizable throughout Greece and the whole world now knows where Amphipolis is. In practice, however, the benefits are meagre. No wonder, if excavations are put on hold," says mayor of Amphipolis Kostas Melitos.

"We await the studies"

So what is the situation today with the Casta hill excavation? "We expect the conservation and maintenance studies, carried out by the Ministry of Culture, to be completed sooner rather than later. This will give us a chance to continue our work. The most important thing is to provide proper protection to the monument before the coming winter. Thereafter, we're not aware what the next archaeological season has in store for us," says Katerina Peristeri.

The mayor speaks of "enormous and unreasonable delays" in the award and the start of research. "We keep waiting as we know there are bottlenecks, and we are hopeful that the agenda of the ministry will be met," says Melitos.

In a recent statement, the Ministry of Culture said that "after several meetings, the sum of €200,000 was earmarked for urgent research, and is currently in the Bank of Greece. The sum has been incrementally released after the ban on payments was listed." The most important thing for the local community at the moment is the preservation of the monument.

Tags: Amphipolis tomb archaeologists disputes Katerina Peristeri excavations
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