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Digging politics in the Aegean; The case of Ionia after WWI

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Symposium On Mediterranean Archaeology 2012

Florence, 03.03.2012 – Session 7 – 10.00 p.m.

Thematics: Conservation, preservation and archaeological site management | Restoration and Museology

St. John basilica, Ephesus: One of the projects of the Greek Archaeological Service in Asia Minor (26.07-18.09 1921 | 06.06-20.08 1922)

On May 15, 1919, the Greek army, on the side of the victorious Entente, landed in the area of Smyrna/Izmir, claiming the awarded lands of Asia Minor. The newly composed Greek government in the area had been swift to establish the Greek Archaeological Service of Asia Minor and fund a number of social and cultural activities; among them there was a considerable number of archaeological projects (surveys, excavations, restorations, creation of local museums etc.), aiming to solidify the Greek identity of the local populations.

Even though ‘archaeological projects’ are well known in conflict processes of occupation/liberation warfare, the interlinked Greco-Turkish history contains a number of conspicuous cases of archaeological heritage ‘management’ relating to both Greek and Turkish monuments. This paper, part of an on-going project, is focusing on the Greek archaeological projects in the occupied/liberated land of Ionia, examining practical methods of site management and dialectics employed, in comparison to these that followed the Turkish War of Independence, from the other side.

What is more, it looks at some of the contemporary intersecting networks of practices and ideas concerning archaeology; The use of heritage for formulating national and local identities or attempts to manipulate ‘foreign’ cultural heritage, submit steadily nowadays, to contemporary uses of tourist destinations that accommodate a great number of international tourists, unaware of the thick palimpsest of relations and contested history. Could this be a post-modern pattern of ameliorating trauma or could places like Ephesus and Nysa form the basis of more nuanced interpretations based on archaeology, that may actually commence a dialogue, from a cultural point of view?

Stelios Lekakis, MA, PhD c.

Archaeologist / ARM Consultant

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