NEWS

Tourism could destroy environment, tradition

What about local consumption? How could the wine of Thera in the Bronze Age be produced only for export, solely for the enjoyment of others? Thousands of drinking vessels have been found at Akrotiri in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and are found in every home. Jugs, cups and glasses indicate domestic consumption. In one of our recent findings, a jug from the Middle Bronze Age (18th century BC), shows two men, probably in a ceremonial stance: one is tilting the jug in his hand to fill a glass which the other man is lifting toward him. I believe that in such a ceremonial procedure the drink in question could not have been any ordinary one, without any pleasant effects. In conclusion, I would like to make an observation. Environmental conditions on the island since antiquity meant that the Therans had a very simple diet. This led them to look for ways to vary it by using the few products their land produced. Those same conditions favored the development of monocultures that created a surplus in certain products, and therefore wealth. Monocultures One of these monocultures was – and still is – viticulture. It is not unlikely that its development led to the great wealth accumulated by some families in the 7th and 6th centuries BC, as seen from the opulent grave monuments. The monumental Theran kouroi in the archaeological museum in Fira and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, as well as the unique, outsized ancient kore that recently appeared in the cemetery at Sella, were made for these monuments. The people of Santorini today know better than anyone else that until very recently, modern Santorini owed part of its wealth and certainly its contacts with the outside world to the monoculture of the vine and its wine exports. I hope and pray that their current economic activity, tourism, will not turn out to be a blight which, apart from spoiling the environment that we live in, will do away with one of the islanders’s most ancient economic activities: viticulture and wine production.