Is Dr Marina Solomidou-Ieronimidou, the Director of Antiquities, trying to “keep buried” important information? Her letter raises more questions about her department’s role than it answers about Dr Graber’s interview.
In her letter of 18th October, Dr Marina Solomidou-Ieronimidou protests too much about the recent interview that Dr Pamela Graber gave to the Mail. Perhaps she feels that the criticism stings. Dr Graber’s “indifference” remark was a reference to Cypriots in general and not a direct attack on the archaeological community, although clearly there may be some responsibility to be laid at the door of her department.
Incidentally, the numbers of interested Cypriots, other than school visits, could be easily calculated and compared thereby finding out whether or not Cypriots choose to visit this museum more than other sites or other museums elsewhere. Or the number of references in the media could be counted. That should settle the issue. After that, there should be questions asked regarding how to encourage Cypriots to take more interest in the archaeological sites.
Dr Solomidou-Ieronimidou makes two startling claims: that the Department of Antiquities is the only institute which promotes Cypriot culture; and that there is a principle that archaeologists leave things in the ground for future researchers. I’ll come back to these points later.
As for the rather high-handed defensive remark that Cyprus looks after its ancient sites and antiquities, Dr Solomidou-Ieronimidou must have forgotten the long-standing “history” of plundering of Cypriot antiquities by all sorts of people ranging from those who should know better to contemporary villagers who know the location of ancient graves and who might or might not inform archaeologists about their activities. There are many admirable people who respect the ancient sites and their contents but certainly not all do.
Can Dr Solomidou-Ieronimidou tell us if it or is it not true that unauthorised building has taken place within the plots in Dhali designated as archaeologically important? Has building occurred in the Idalion area on important sites not covered by official protection? She does not quite say if irregularities have occurred or not. Nor does she say if important areas have been built on. That information is crucial to this issue.
Furthermore, if, as Dr Solomidou-Ieronimidou claims, there has been lots of funding for ancient Idalion, then why is the present site still difficult to view and lacks the interactive content which would attract the average Cypriot? If there has been so much funding and work, what has it achieved? I don’t want to say that the site should only aim to be entertaining but the point of archaeological work, many would say, is to spread knowledge and culture and surely not to follow a principle of keeping things hidden for future researchers.
Another point which Dr Solomidou-Ieronimidou, as the Director of Antiquities and defender of culture, could explain is why her department did not defend the Venetian Walls from the unnecessarily intrusive new Eleftheria Square development. The design is architecturally stylish but most would say inappropriate in that specific location. Does her department approve or not?
Following her odd claim that we should keep some things literally buried, does Dr Marina Solomidou-Ieronimidou, Director of the Department of Antiquities, plan to instruct Greek archaeologists not to investigate all of the newly found tomb complex at Amphipolis in Greece?
David Guest, via email