What is the future of archaeology in Greece? How the nation-building project devalues archaeology and the quest for relevance

Lecture | November 28 | 12-1 p.m. | 101 2251 College (Archaeological Research Facility)

 Anastasia Sakellariadi, Honorary Research Associate, UCL Institute of Archaeology

 Archaeological Research Facility

The nationalist role that archaeology has played in Greece since the beginning of the nation-state has been extensively discussed. Archaeology, predominantly meant as the study of Classical art, was established in an effort to protect Classical monuments as tangible links to a glorious past. The Modern Greek state could thus prove its legitimacy and worth as a descendant of the Classical Greek civilization and ensure its independence and a place amongst the ‘civilized’ Western world. In order to promote this agenda archaeology, heritage management and policy have been under the exclusive responsibility and control of the state Archaeological Service up to the present time. Indeed archaeology has been a main, if not the main, contributor to the construction of a Greek national identity, an on-going project including instances such as the internationally sensational discovery of a tomb allegedly dated to the time of Alexander the Great in 2014.

However, the nationalist role of archaeology has at the same time compromised the broader social, political and economic benefits of the discipline and the practice of heritage management. Through the process of cultural homogenization, indigenous archaeologies of Greece have been neglected and suppressed, greatly compromising the social values, the quality of political awareness, and even economic benefits that could derive from a critical investigation and presentation of the past. I will demonstrate through research focusing on three local communities how this exclusive emphasis on the glory of the past and its physical manifestations has rendered this past irrelevant to contemporary Greeks. Finally, I will argue that another archaeology is possible in Greece: a more self-reflective, nuanced and less self-referential archaeology may enable us to tell more relevant and subtle stories about the past and to more efficiently address serious issues such as racism, social fragmentation and justice. In the end, another archaeology may render another national identity possible.