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Thessaloniki Metro: Gov’t plan to relocate antiquities triggers outrage

The announcement by Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to remove the antiquities from the ancient archaeological site from the metro station <Venizelos>in Thessaloniki  so that the metro works proceed in fast speed has triggered a storm of reactions in the second biggest city of Greece.

Citizens have launched a petition to cancel the government plan, the Association of Greek Archaeologists condemns the removal. A harsh dispute between the former mayor Yannis Boutaris and the new, Konstantinos Zervas (New Democracy).

The government and the local authorities elected on the Nd ticket vehemently support the idea, despite the outrage.

“The Prime Minister’s announcement does not take into account the actual needs or progress of the technical work but the plan seems to be dictated by certain cycles to detach or even make the antiquities of the Thessaloniki Metro to “disappear,” the Association of Greek Archaeologists said in a statement.

The Association accuses the government of taking such an crucial decision without previous consultation with the relevant bodies and the local community.

It raises the obvious questions about the fate of the archaeological site asking among others

– “who guarantees that the Middle Road will eventually be relocated, with what study and what timetable? The case of Hagia Sophia station has shown that repositioning cannot be done in its entirety, and it is technically difficult.”

– ” What will be the findings from the excavation of the underlying ancient archaeological horizons that do not need to be excavated with the current solution? What kind of delays will the excavation for the relocation cause? What will be the reaction of the scientific world and the Central Archaeological Council to unexpected future findings?”

Mitsotakis announce don Sunday the decision to remove and reposition the archaeological finds currently at the junction of Egnatia and Venizelou Streets so that the metro station <Veniszelos> can open. He said that the archaeological site hinders the station construction and that the metro of Thessaloniki will lack an important station in the middle of the city. “There will be a paradox of having the metro without the Venizelos station,” he said.

Construction works at the metro station <Venizelos> and the archaeological excavations have brought to light a whole city from the ancient Greece and Rome and stunning findings.

They unearthed an extraordinary treasure trove of more than 300,000 ancient artifacts, from gold wreaths and rings to statues of the goddess Aphrodite.

More than 5000 tombs and graves were uncovered, some of them containing exquisite golden wreaths. This one dates from the late 4th to early 3rd century BC.

Archaeologists found a stone-paved road, the Decumanus Maximus, which would have run through the heart of Thessaloniki in 6AD, as well as the remains of villas, shops, workshops and an early Christian church.

The Archaeologists Association calls on Thessaloniki residents, city officials and the international community, to stand by their side so that the Metro project will not be pushed back for four years. ”

Former Mayor Boutaris and the newly established Citizens Movement for the protection of Cultural Heritage of Thessaloniki immediately responded to the call and launched a petition collecting signatures in order to”save the archaeological site at Venizelos station.”

What they want is the coexistence of the archaeological site with the metro station, similar to Monastiraki station in Athens.

Within two days they collected 4,000 signatures.

Relocation opponents call the government plan a “humiliation” for the city.

Local authorities who gathered to discuss the issue on Tuesday said that they cannot afford any further delays in the metro construction and further economical burden for the metro budget as well as for the city.

They said that the archaeological site excavations have substantially added to the delay of the completion of the metro. “Otherwise, Thessaloniki would have the complete metro in 2021-2022,” they said.

According to latest information given by government ministers the metro in Thessaloniki is expected to go into operation in 2023.

Transportation Minister Costas Karamanlis stated that the cost of excavations reached 135 million euros, “when the Acropolis Museum costed much less.” The solution of relocation and reposition is much quicker and cheaper,” he added. He did not rule out the participation of a private company in the operation of the Thessaloniki metro.

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4 comments

  1. so, when i go to beg the government’s permission (by what right do they demand this?) to do repairs to my 150 year old house in the village, the government tells me first their ‘archaeological service’ must come and inspect everything.. meanwhile if i so much as move a rock they might decide to levy absurd fines on me. a year later they come round and leave me with a list of arbitrary demands about what they decide i may and may not do to my own house, which we all know objectively has no real archaeological value (but they want to make sure the tourists get a consistent ‘brand’ in their ‘experience’ and thats what its really about)
    but then, when that same government wants to destroy real, actual antiquities, which if they truly belong to the public , then neither you nor i _NOR_ the state has any right to destroy them… and of course all those rules, right out the window.
    just to make sure we’re clear about that.
    and anyone wonders why the people are angry?

  2. There is no chance of the British Museum returning the Parthenon Marbles to a country that puts development costs above the protection and preservation of its own historical artefacts….

    • Hi Toni,

      I agree that the British Museum won’t return the Parthenon Marbles but don’t be deluded, it’s got nothing to do with this.

      Greece should veto BREXIT until the Marbles have come home.

  3. Many years ago, when I was in the British museum, some kid on a school trip tried to scribble on one in pencil. Protection? hah.