“What I find magical about Akrotiri and the decades-long, ongoing archaeological research is the sense of an unpredictable past. The fact that following a volcano eruption 3,500 years ago, we modern people are trying to comprehend how these people lived back then. And I believe that we have plenty to discover. Do you think that 3,500 years from now anyone will be interested in finding out how we lived?” Eugene Kaspersky told a group of journalists who had gathered at the ancient site on the island of Santorini recently.
A Russian cybersecurity expert whose international software security group Kaspersky Lab specializes in antivirus programs, Kaspersky was unveiling an initiative that will see research activity return to the ancient site.
Standing alongside professor Christos Doumas, who heads the excavation project in Akrotiri, Kaspersky said he was providing financial backing for three major projects which will no doubt unearth fresh information regarding the city that was wiped out by a volcanic explosion which occurred between 1600 and 1500 BC.
Meanwhile, the tech-savvy Russian also expressed his desire to see the creation of a space for the display of the Akrotiri findings, essentially raising hope regarding the development of a museum.
Cheerful and well-prepared, Kaspersky noted he had wanted to see Akrotiri back in 2005, but that he had been unable to visit since the area had been sealed off following the collapse of part of the roof.
He returned to the Cycladic island in 2013 and began thinking of financially supporting the excavation because of the site’s unique character.
Although the businessman refused to unveil the exact amount of his contribution, he must have been rather generous, judging by the fact that the three sections he is focusing on require a steady financial commitment.
His first move was to finance the resumption of excavation work following 16 years of inactivity. While more than 30 buildings have been discovered since the days of professor Spyros Marinatos (1901-74) – whose excavation efforts led to the discovery of the ancient site between 1967 and 1974 – only six of these have been fully examined.
Now a team of archaeologists is returning to an area underneath the shelter, where a gold goat statuette was discovered a few years ago.
“What is worth noting in this case is not only that the object was located in a wooden box, but that the city’s ancient residents left it behind when they evacuated the area in order to save themselves. As a result, figuring out what the building it was found in served as is of major interest,” Doumas said.
Kaspersky – who also sponsors the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 team – is also footing the bill for the maintenance of buildings which have been discovered at the Santorini ancient site – whether researched or not.
At the same time he will provide funding for the mural renovation workshop. The project had come under financial strain in the past and would have ceased operations altogether had it not been for the constant sponsorship of Aristeidis Alafouzos, president of Kathimerini’s board of directors. A Santorini native, Alafouzos has repeatedly backed up his passion for excavations on the island with funding.
While the Russian entrepreneur has undertaken the renovation of murals located in a building known as Xesti 4, Alafouzos is providing funds for work at Xesti 3. A team of 16 conservators are already working at the site.
“The mural pieces are so fragile that even a sneeze could put them in danger,” noted Doumas. “The soil is the best protector of antiquities, an archive full of information. Every time we excavate we read the archive, but we nevertheless create some damage. After so many years I can tell you I’m not in a hurry. Our top priority is for the work to be carried out properly.”
Given the Russian sponsorship, digging and restoration work is now set to reveal new discoveries.
“Eugene Kaspersky’s international contacts as well his intention to persuade other sponsors to back us makes me feel particularly content,” Doumas added as the group of journalists were being guided around the ancient site.