Greece’s badly overstretched state archaeological service is to increase drastically, with an extra 3,500 hirings to cover a 56 percent increase in departments all over the country under a newly signed presidential decree, the Culture Ministry said yesterday. «This will allow the ministry’s services to establish much closer contacts with local communities,» Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said. As part of a sweeping reorganization of the ministry’s structure, the decree calls for the creation of 28 new departments (officially known as ephorates) of antiquities, bringing up the total to 78 – at least one for every prefecture. The greatest increase will be in ephorates for Byzantine antiquities, which are to double in number, reaching 28. Prehistoric and classical antiquities ephorates will grow from 25 to 39, a second ephorate for paleoanthropology and speleology will be created in Thessaloniki and four new specialized state archaeological institutes will be founded.