NEWS

Akrotiri roof goes ahead

Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis visited the prehistoric site of Akrotiri on Thera, or Santorini, on April 2 to check up on progress on the site’s new bioclimatic roof. He also asked for the site to be opened in time for the Olympic Games. «In the 40 years that I have been in charge of excavations at Akrotiri, it’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity and the honor to guide a culture minister round this site,» said Professor Christos Doumas. The roof is the largest project to protect a prehistoric site in the world. Just the excavations for the pillars to support the roof, through pyroclastic rock (containing rock fragments of volcanic origin), produced 2,000 boxes of matter. «At this moment, 55 percent of the project is ready,» architect Nikos Findikakis, who is in charge of the pioneering roof, told Kathimerini. «Another 22.5 million euros is needed in order to complete it,» he said. He explained the sum would pay for a layer of earth on the roof, doors and windows, a ceiling that will help extract warm air, facilities, interior walkways and exhibition areas. The former government had promised immediate funding of the project, but, Findikakis said, «though it had signed the technical report, there was no money.» For the roof to be ready in one to one-and-a-half years’ time, he said, there had to be a continuous flow of funding. Tatoulis asked that the site of Akrotiri be opened for the Olympic Games. «We can’t afford for it to be closed,» he said. Akrotiri, closed since last November to facilitate works, will open in the summer. It will be free, due to the complaints by visitors who found much of the site off-limits. Scientists, as well as tourists, also want to visit this unique archaeological site in order to see up close the pioneering construction work as well as surprise finds during Doumas’s excavations. «In a few days’ time, scientists from a Mexican university will be paying a visit, followed by others from a British university. What are we going to tell them? That the site is closed? We can allow a short tour that will not disturb site workers at Akrotiri,» Findikakis said. The foundations for the 95 pillars, the girders, the space frames and the entire first layer of the roof plates are in place. The construction phase will hopefully have been finished in a few months, allowing the scaffolding to be removed and the site itself to be revamped. When the roof at Akrotiri is ready, five different routes will be available for visitors. Tickets will be for two hours, one day or three days. There will even be special tours for scientists and for people with special needs who cannot go everywhere. In 40 years, out of the 50 buildings in the 1.2 hectare covered area, only four have been fully excavated. «But these four buildings,» explained Doumas, «have produced huge quantities of plaster belonging to frescoes many hundreds of square meters in size. The frescoes that have been preserved up to now account for only one-third of the total number excavated.» It would require many years of continuous work by a large team of preservation experts, he explained, to complete the rest. «That’s not counting the others we’ve located in unexcavated buildings.» Copious finds have been found at the site, with more to come. Intact ceramic vessels alone come to around 10,000. «It will take centuries to complete the excavations,» said Doumas.