History bulldozed

The concerns of those who had warned the government against the construction of Olympic projects in Marathon due to the high risk of discovering and, possibly, damaging, archaeological finds have been vindicated. The disclosure in the Sunday edition of Kathimerini that ancient building remains – most likely dating to the early Helladic period – have been unearthed at the edge of one of the two artificial lakes dug to host the rowing events raises some serious issues. First, given that archaeological excavations are not carried out by bulldozers, there are serious concerns that some of the finds have already been irreparably damaged. Even if we set aside this dire possibility – which would be impossible to reverse – there is still the crucial issue of protecting the other archaeological finds that may still lie buried in the area. No one can rule out the existence of more finds after the first building remains were brought to light. The government and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos are already weighed with their stubborn insistence on building the rowing center at Schinias despite fierce reactions. They were proved wrong. They should not aggravate their position with attempts to play down the significance of the finds. Venizelos should avoid persisting with remarks about «an early Helladic find, located on the bank, which is small, size-wise.» Does he not realize that it takes huge reserves of good faith to uncritically accept his claim that the finds, by pure accident, were discovered – and abruptly end – at the edge of the artificial lake and that none has been engulfed by water? It is not the confrontation nor unreasonable obsessions which are at stake here. Without doubt the government picked an unsuitable site. The damage has been done. But it must do everything possible to minimize the repercussions. We do not know whether it is still feasible to move the venue to another area. The authorities have to stop the disastrous raids by bulldozers and carry out extensive archaeological excavations in order to check if there are more building remains in the area and to protect – and perhaps even exploit – those discovered during the Games. Setting aside all responsibilities and egos, Marathon is the property of Greece’s national history, not of the 2004 Olympics.

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