Hope in Nemea following new minister's visit

By Margarita Pournara

A recent visit by newly appointed Culture Minister Costas Tasoulas to the Archaeological Site of Nemea brought some good news to one of the country’s leading sites, which has been struggling to stay open due to staff and security shortages since the start of the crisis.

The issue made headlines last year after American archaeologist Stephen Miller (photo), who has devoted decades of his life to the excavation and promotion of the site in the northeastern Peloponnese, wrote an open letter in which he appealed for funds, saying that the site would have to be shut down unless shortages resulting from drastic spending cuts were addressed.

The distinguished archaeologists, who raised funding for the excavations from the University of Berkeley and founded the active, non-profit friends of the site organization, stressed in dramatic tone that the country would be exposed internationally if the operation of the site were compromised.

Former Culture Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos had provided a temporary solution to the problem at the time by approving staff hirings under short-term contracts. However, these contracts expired on July 4, meaning that the site had to be shut down.

Tasoulas, appointed during last month’s reshuffle, pledged after being guided around the site by Miller that it would not remain closed and that the resources and staff would be found to keep it going, at least for peak tourist season. A more permanent solution will be discussed again in October.

“The visit by Mr Tasoulas and the decision to keep the site open gave us some breathing room, at least for the duration of the summer season when we have the most traffic,” Miller told Kathimerini. “Today I counted only about 200 people. They are mainly foreign tourists who have come to see the museum and the stadium and want to see it open.”

Tasoulas also visited the Mycenaean Cemetery at the nearby village of Aidonia, west of Nemea. Although many tombs were looted in the past, they have yielded gold jewelry of rare beauty. The City of Nemea is planing to buy the land where the archaeological site is located and cede it to the Ministry of Culture, Tasoulas said.

“In the case of Nemea we see the exemplary and functional coexistence of archaeological services, private enterprises, foreign bodies and municipal authorities,” Tasoulas told Kathimerini. Praising Miller’s work, he added: “He is one of those people who has ideas about how we can promote our archaeological heritage abroad and much, much more.”