Foreign schools of archaeology enrich heritage

Since 1922, the Greek state has been trying to establish schools of archaeology abroad, with hundreds of plans, countless promises and even announcements made over the many years. Yesterday, however, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis was pleased to present a report on the activities of the 17 foreign archaeological schools in Greece that have been around for some 160 years, as well as to announce that a Greek school beyond the country’s borders will also be opening soon. The first of these schools being planned is for Italy, then for Albania – where operations are already under way under archaeologist C. Zachos – and Ukraine, while it looks like plans are on the right track for schools in Romania, Egypt, Georgia and Cyprus. «There was never a problem with having a Greek presence in any country abroad,» said Tatoulis in a barbed remark against previous administrations that failed to establish Greek archaeological schools on an international level. Sources also say that the ministry has succeeded in attaining a branch of UNESCO in Thessaloniki, which will deal with cultural issues concerning the broader Balkan region. Active role However, until all these plans come to fruition, the public can get a taste of what foreign archaeological schools have offered Greece over the years at the exhibition «Foreign Archaeological Institutions in Greece – 160 Years of Cooperation for our Culture,» which is the first such show to address developments in archaeological research, interpretation of relics that have been brought to light during excavations, conservation and, more generally, the promotion of the Greek cultural heritage at home and abroad. The exhibition is being held in the new space in the Athens Concert Hall and includes ample photographic material as well as information on the activities of each individual school as well as a display of 74 ancient artifacts. One might expect a bit more from an exhibition covering 160 years of substantial activities; however, the significance of the exhibition (which was organized under a very tight deadline by the Ministry of Culture’s department of exhibitions and museological research and the department of foreign scientific foundations) is not negligible since it is indeed the very first time something of its kind has been held in Greece. Through brief texts, the public can see an outline of the work done by the American School of Archaeology at the Ancient Agora and Corinth, the Australian Institute in Halkida, the Austrian in Aegira in Achaia and on Aegina, the Belgian school in Lavrion, the British in Laconia and Knossos, and the French school in Argos, Delphi, Thasos and Malia. These are not the only schools to have been active in Greece over the past 160 years. The first, the French school, was established in 1846 by a decree by King Louis Philippe. The 17 schools that have been or are active in Greece have made significant contributions to the country and, says Tatoulis, the next hundred years are expected to be even more fruitful. One of the most important services these institutions provide is that they research, excavate and protect countless archaeological sites all around the country, «contributing constantly to the enormous mosaic of Greek history and culture,» according to Tatoulis. The exhibition is complemented by a 174-page, bilingual catalog.

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