It has been reported that thieves have dug a 6ft hole into an area of Olympia, where there is a known Mycenaen cemetery, in search of artefacts. This is because of the economic crisis affecting that country. The illegal digging has increased as people become desperate plus professional gangs know that there are cuts in guards at Greek heritage sites.
But, local people are mounting volunteer guards to try to see off the robbers. Local people care about their heritage and also know that tourists come to see Greek sites. If sites are trashed they won't come. The culture ministry even reburied an early Christian basilica, found during work on a new underground railway, so that it may avoid looting. They knew that if a site became public knowledge the vulture will circle. At Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia at the time of Alexander the Great, digging was abandoned after ten holes appeared over night.
|The incredible Pella helmet|
The artefacts are smuggled out by the gangs to unscrupulous dealers, auction houses (naming no names, but some well known) and collectors. Some of the artefacts can be worth millions of Euros.
Greece has lost some 10% of its archaeologists and has just 2,000 security personnel. Museum staff have been laid off and are hit by robbers, smashing cabinets and taking metal and pottery artefacts worth millions. In one museum dead batteries had been placed in the security system!
The Association of Greek Archaeologists, Ms Koutsoumba, stated that "we want the people of Europe to understand that when you see reports of cuts in the public sector, it's not just abstract. They are schools, nurses, monuments and museums".
Each theft is like a surgeon taking a scalpel and cutting away bits of the brain bearing memories of the human race.