Amphipolis: A Personal Clarification

I will get back to blogging the information that the Greek Ministry of Culture releases about Amphipolis.

I realise that some Greek archaeologists not on the excavation have been critical of both the press releases - which I thought was a sensible decision by the MC - and that the information in these press releases is being discussed on the internet.

I have always believed that people are interested in archaeology, and want to learn about it. Several times I've heard scholars at conferences complain how difficult it is to "engage the public" ... but I've never had that issue: if anything I've had problems dealing with the huge interest people have in archaeology ... and replying to all their questions (I am very behind on email, and apologise but I have a huge back-log).

My colleagues both mock me for giving my organisation Loot Busters a 'silly' name and then complain that "the public" is not interested in art crime and looting, and claim that "the public" see it as just a crime that effects the rich ... Need I point out that my experience has been the opposite? That lots of people express interest in my work and in that of the Portable Antiquities Scheme when I explain it to them? (I also prefer to get looted items back rather than to discuss looting).

I hate social snobbery, and I hate pseudo-intellectual pretensions even more. A few years ago I started Culture Concierge; one aim, to put scholars willing to be paid to act as guides together with people who would otherwise hire a guide regurgitating the usual stories, did not work out. The weekly emails covering London culture and Travel, did - although I had to take a break for personal reasons. I'm relaunching the (renamed) email newsletters soon, and people can sign up to Culture Cut London and Culture Cut World via these links or the web site.

One of the aims of Culture Concierge will be to produce quick, short but intelligent Culture 101 guides on cultural topics - for example Caryatids - and everything I have seen from people's reaction to Amphipolis suggests that people really are interested in learning more, even if they don't always have the time to read a full book. We'll also do short city guides - eg enough for a long week-end in say Athens or Marrakesh, picking the best and not overwhelming people with choices to merely fill pages.

I love explaining history and archaeology to people, and sharing knowledge. The reason I chose not to do TV is because I'm frankly fed up with things like getting asked by the History Channel to dress up in a Roman short skirt (ie uniform ... yup, they really did ask this, and before you say it was just one idiot, it was a VP who wouldn't take no for an answer).

I have not spoken to any journalists about Amphipolis. People who've asked me about the dig over the years I told to wait for the official presentation. I am reconsidering this for the same reason I've been blogging about the tomb - I can't complain about all the nonsense out there if I don't do my bit to explain it to people.

I would however like to make one thing very clear; whilst I know what was in the public presentation of the Amphipolis excavation at a conference in March ... I do not know what has been found there since then, and I am basing my posts on the MC press releases.

I have not asked the archaeologists at Amphipolis what they have found, nor have their volunteered to tell me. Even though one is a good friend, our only communication about Amphipolis was me making him aware of the leak of information early last month, and him thanking me for helping identify the source.

Earlier this year I had planned to take six months off to try to properly re-launch Culture Concierge and see if I could make it work. But ... glandular fever - aka mono aka Λοιμώδης μονοπυρήνωση - got in the way ... Because stress is a trigger, and I've had both it and post viral fatigue before, I quit several projects - one I felt was getting too political, another was getting both too political and resulted in 400+ emails a day, etc ... so the relaunch of CC has been pushed back, as I was too ill to do it let alone keep up with others' excavations.

I've always tried to explain archaeological findings and I will continue to blog about them. I don't care what people say about me, but I will defend friends like a lioness defending her cubs. My blogging about Amphipolis would not be an issue if I did not have friends on the dig ... but a) they are not leaking any information whatsoever to me, and b) I have friends on an awful lot of other excavations around the Med ... and honestly at this point in my life it would be a pretty damning indictment of me as an archaeologist if I didn't. People sometimes show me their finds to ask my opinion; sometimes to ask me to look out for items on the art market that might have been looted from their site; sometimes just because they're proud of what they've found and they know I won't blab.

Anyway, I am surprised that I have had to write such a lengthy explanation but ... I'll be blogging about Amphipolis again soon!

[Yes I am  that angry at the slurs that I spelt Amphipolis wrong in the title ... :-(]

1 comment:

  1. Hi there! I've enjoyed your amphipolis posts since August, so, by all means, please keep blogging about it;)
    Based on the MC press releases and the -small-small- pieces of the tomb that we've seen so far, what is your opinion? Who did the lion, the sphinxes and the caryatids protect for more than 2k years? I guess I'm looking for en educated guess:)

    Thank you and keep on teaching us stuff;)


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