After a lengthy meeting that went on until Thursday morning, the Culture Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) decided to remove the antiquities unearthed during excavation work for the Thessaloniki metro.
The antiquities were discovered at the under-construction Venizelou metro station and debate over how to proceed has raised considerable controversy among archaeologists, local authorities and Attiko Metro, the company managing the project.
The project is already many years behind schedule, due to the discoveries. The construction of the Thessaloniki metro was commissioned in 2003 and was initially expected to be completed by 2012.
Attiko Metro had proposed transferring temporarily the findings to a different part of the city for maintenance and eventually returning 92 percent of the items at the original site.
The company’s CEO, Nikos Kouretas, said the cost of this option is estimated at 70.6 million euros and the metro station will be in operation in 2023, when EU funding will end.
Construction of the Venizelos station without removing the antiquities, which the company dismisses due to construction difficulties, would raise the cost to 124.5 million euros and completion of the project would be pushed back to 2026, he added.
Kouretas also said Attiko Metro believes the temporary removal is the safest option for both the findings and commuters.
Among the antiquities discovered on the crossing of Egnatias and Venizelos streets is a 70-meter section of the city’s Byzantine era marble-paved road as well as 7th-century public buildings.