Battle over Marathon finds

The revelation that Bronze Age building remains have been found during construction work for a controversial Olympic venue near Marathon in northern Attica took on a political twist yesterday with the opposition leader accusing the government of neglecting antiquities. Premier Costas Simitis canceled a visit planned for this week to the site of the 2004 rowing center at Schinias after New Democracy Chairman Costas Karamanlis arrived there unexpectedly yesterday to inspect the finds, whose existence the government only conceded on Sunday following a Kathimerini report. He complained to journalists that the Early Helladic remains, which, according to a Culture Ministry preliminary report, belong to two insignificant dwellings, «were discovered not as a result of a systematic excavation but during earthworks for the construction of the rowing center.» Construction work at the northern end of an artificial lake has stopped to allow excavation of the finds, which end abruptly at the edge of the lake. «I must point out that this is the spot that the government claimed was under the sea [in antiquity] and allowed to be built on despite objections by archaeologists and historians,» the conservative leader added. The Culture Ministry, which has steadily rejected arguments the venue is being built on the site of the final stages of the 490 BC Battle of Marathon, says the 3000-2000 BC foundations belonged to isolated buildings on the verge of an ancient swamp. Yesterday, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said he would decide on the fate of the finds once the full excavation report is available. «It is not fitting for the opposition leader to suddenly descend, in the company of television cameras, on an excavation without having first notified the archaeological authorities,» he said.

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