OPEN LETTER TO THE CENTRAL ARCHEOLOGICAL COUNCIL REGARDING THE ARCHEOLOGICAL AREA OF SKOURIES


Educational – Cultural association of Megali Panagia in Thessaloniki

Historical and Folklore Museum of Revenikia – Megali Panagia


                                                                                            Thessaloniki 12/12/2015

OPEN LETTER TO THE CENTRAL ARCHEOLOGICAL COUNCIL REGARDING THE ARCHEOLOGICAL AREA OF SKOURIES

The Central Archeology Council of  Greece is about to proceed to a meeting with the subject “ the approval or not of maintaining antiquities , revealed during the construction of “ Mine and Metallurgical Installations of Kassandra’s Mines” , made by the company “ Greek Gold “ , placed in Skouries of Megali Panagia Municipality of Aristotelis in Chalkidiki , in the district of Central Macedonia “ , as reported in the daily agenda .

We believe that what is really attempted in this way, is the commencement of the next stage of the construction in Skouries , since the removal of ancient objects will mean the beginning of blasting and of further works  in order to create an open ditch .

Within the proposal dated at 5/1/12015 , the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chalkidiki and of Mount Athos – the first official sector – reports that after the saving excavation in the area of  6.000 square meters at the center of the open pit gold-copper mine, were found findings related to the installation of ancient copper metallurgy .

This report describes ancient excavations, peg holes, sections of stone and stonework building’s grounding , sections and signs of installation for stone breaking , of enrichment and of production’s control , sections and rests of mining furnaces a s well as all  ground works intended for metallurgy and for the rejection of materials , installations for water’s storing and handling , used in metallurgy and  for providing air to the mining furnaces . There were also found rests of copper excavation , earthen pieces from the superstructure of mining furnaces , ceramics and roof tiles, fragments of porphyry deposit , parts of rounded plates related to household use , 12 coins made by copper , aged from the 2nd century B.C.









The objects of household use are not mentioned in detail in this report. However 2 months after the date of issuing the above and during an informative display of Historical and Folklore Museum of  Revenikia,  Megali Panagia, the archeologist in charge, reported that an important part of ceramics found during the excavation  refers to “ precious pots for food and water” . There were also pieces of urns made in Rhodes found, which – as derived from presentation’s material – where identified in specific ceramic’s workroom in 2nd century B.C. ( Onasioikos 210 – 175 B.C. ) .

During the presentation, the archeologist in charge, projected photographical material of household objects , which were not described in detail in the report of  Ephorate of Antiquities of  Chalkidiki and of Mount Athos . We should also mention -as objects of special interest- the weights that kept tight the warps of ancient vertical looms.

This weights were found during the excavation and, according to the archeologist, that means that in this area or in another near site, there should be a settlement of families and of people dealing with metallurgy .


The photo shows an urn, found at the site, from workroom 
of Onasioikos which has a seal from the sovereign in Rhodes (2nd century B.C.)




The photo shows loom’s weights found at the site




 The photo shows coins of 2nd century B.C. found at the site




 The photo shows sculpture embossed heads upon luxurious drinking ancient pottery (2nd century B.C.) found at the site


In their report, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chalkidiki and of Mount Athos, mention the absence of stratigraphy, which is the study of arrangements of stratums of the archeological area, that can offer information regarding the physical and cultural changes as well as the duration of these changes related to the thickness, the formation, the color and the content of the stratums.

In addition, there is no report relevant to the radio-dating of ancient objects, such as the vast quantity of copper slag (the solidified remaining of copper metallurgy) or other objects. Although 6 years have passed since the first superficial autopsy made by the archeologist in charge (19/1/2009 – 20/2/2009 ) the responsible Ephorate of Antiquities invokes a “ first examination of portable findings “ , as to conclude that “ the excavation in Skouries brought to light a very small - in terms of  dimensions and  life duration-  metallurgical installation, dated in the middle of 2nd century B.C. However in March of 2015 the  archeologist in charge, during the display of Historical and Folklore Museum of Revenikia – the second official sector –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyXdpS-Nuvg expressed his belief that the certain metallurgical installation refers to a prosperous city, probably of ancient Acanthus, without explaining how the people of a prosperous city who discovered minerals in this area and where occupied with metallurgy limited this profitable financial operation “ in a small period of time in the middle of 2nd century B.C. “ – as it’s mentioned in the controversial report. In the same report there is no refer to the need of  further investigation as to find out the dimension -temporal and geographical- of the human settlement and activity in this area, neither any refer to the relation of metallurgical location with other archeological places in the broader area .

We should note that the 16th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities – the third official sector – in 22/3/2007 in their previous negative opinion regarding the creation of an open pit mine in Skouries, were referring another archaeological site in the area Katsouras or Kastelloudi – a place located a few hundred meters from the ancient metallurgy site, between the two streams of Karatza and Lotsaniko, where the company “Hellenic Gold” are building dams to contain metallurgy wastes.. This remark resulted after proceeding to an autopsy, done by archeologists of the certain Ephorate, and refers to a fortified settlement . As mentioned, in this,  no ceramics were found regarding the dating of this settlement, but they assume that its latest period refers to the Byzantine ages – as this derives from tile making within this settlement. It’s also mentioned that in a distance from the workshop for the enrichment factory build nearby, is located the hill of  “Kastelli , a fortified settlement dated in historical ages , which is protected by the rules of Law Nr. 3028/28-6-2002 , regarding the  “ protection of Antiquities and in general of the Cultural Inheritance “ .

It’s also mentioned that in this area, were found ceramics dated since the classical up to the Roman ages – something which is not mentioned in  the recent report of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chalkidiki and of Mount Athos .
The negative opinion of the 16th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities is very important for the case of ancient furnaces in Skouries area, because it takes into account that although all other ancient furnaces found  are located close to river beds with continuous water flow during the whole year as to achieve the mine’s freezing, “in Skouries the nearest river bed is in distance of 550meters away ( Karatzas to South and East direction ). What should be expected is the existence of ancient installations (water tanks, laundries and worker’s accommodation) which either were vanished due to the continuous modern transformation or perhaps exist in the certain area but have not yet been discovered by any investigation“

Another conclusion of the previous negative assessment of the 16th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, which was formatted with the participation of the archaeologist, who later did an autopsy concluding to the opposite (!) and supervised  the saving excavation and the relative works, concludes to the following : “ Besides the above marked archeological areas, we often find elements in bibliography regarding the ancient mineral and metallurgical activity  in the location of the proposed subproject in Skouries. Also, there are reports referring to furnaces and to slag of copper excavation in some areas, and also to mining wells and galleries, which were not discovered during our autopsies, probably because they were buried. In addition, this wide area was used for excavating metalliferous deposits not only in ancient times but also nowadays, while many proposals have been made regarding their cultural elevation . Finally, the fact that now (2007) we have a minimal alteration of the area, in combination with the extensive alterations, as they are seen in the plan for the project of the new proposed activity, establish that the damage of the environment and of the local antiquities are impossible to rectify as well as probably the damage of those which may be discovered during any subsequent excavations. Based on the above elements, our Ephorate disagrees with the activity of a new mine for exploiting gold and copper porphyry in Skouries , of Municipality of Megali Panagia in the North Chalkidiki “ .

This certain opinion was the second negative in a period of 7 months and included more detailed arguments against the license for a mine in Skouries. At 7/8/2006 the 6th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities had rejected the mine’s activity in Skouries . The 10th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities ( EBA ) – the 4th official sector - , with the decision nr ( 4373 /7.8.2006 ) , had also rejected this plan , based on the fact that Skouries is a very important historical and archeological place in Chalkidiki – the study and the assessment of Skouries is still in progress but not completed – the mine’s activity would not allow in  future  any` investigation and development of the antiquities .

However, as we read in the official decision of the State Higher Cassation Court Nr 1170 / 2013, regarding the plaint addressed by the municipality of Megali Panagia, the Educational Association of Citizens of Megali Panagia living in Thessaloniki , and Mr. Ioannis Zaharakis,  against the Minister of Culture and Tourism, the Minister of Environment, Energy and Climatic Changes and against the company “Hellenic Gold  S.A. ), the administration as well as the court accepted the assessment presented by “Hellenic Gold” made by Mr Faklaris, who was member of faculty of  Classical Archeology in Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. After making a makeshift autopsy, he concluded that the ancient findings in Skouries (slag and other objects) were transferred there from another area and so they don’t consist proof of any sign of antiquities locally in the area.

This opinion as well as the autopsy that followed, influenced in a major way the decisions of the Central Archeological Council, the High Cassation Courtl and of the Ministry of Culture – all in 2009 – so as to approve  “Hellenic Gold’s” assessment of environmental effects. 

We see below 2 pictures , the first one shows rests of copper excavation in ancient times and the second ones shows the representation of this activity in ancient times .
Important Note : the conjectural imprintings as the one underneath , which are included in the presentation’s slides, downgrade in purpose the importance of copper mine in Skouries . There’s nothing seen regarding the cultural background discovered during the excavation (buildings, substructure works , human settlement ) , in order to present it as a temporary and not as a well-organized installation in 2nd century B.C. . 






However, as resulted later, the saving excavation certifies the existence of metallurgical copper unit in the 2nd century B.C. Note that at that time, there was not any detailed examination conducted regarding this area. Moreover, official records of the local forestry authority of Arnaia, dated back to the 60s, certify that slag and other objects mentioned in the controversial autopsy, have been existing at Skouries since the old times.

What’s surprising is that in 2009, the Central Archeological Council decided to reverse the assessments and negative opinions signed by archeologists of the archeological service and supported the opinion of another archeologist, bearing the arguments of the mining company, in order to ask again for a new report to be made by the archeological service .authorities.

This was stated to the Central Archeological Council and the 16th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities ordered an autopsy (information by mr.  K. Papastathis , archeologist / 12 .3.2009 ) .” We inform you that our Ephorate completed the superficial investigation in Skouries of Megali Panagia . Two workers and two archeologists from 19/1/2009 up to 20/2/2009 examined a forest site of a perimeter of 600 meters on the superficial  metalliferous deposit, where rests of ancient metallurgical activity can be seen. They walked all over the area, they depilated – where possible – superficial vegetation and made 31 searching sections without using mechanical tools. No further antiquities were found , over the mentioned  ones in the b’ relative . Thus our Ephorate has no objection in terms of the archeological legislation , to approve the Study  of Environmental Effects for the subproject in Skouries of Megali Panagia under the following terms”.

We see below 2 pictures, a few weeks after the autopsy in 2009. We can see the actual depth of these “investigative sections”



We should note the following regarding this certain opinion:

    •    The investigation lasted only 33 days during which all the mentioned actions took place.
    •    It’s surprising how accurate conclusions, which influenced a lot the approval of the Study of Environmental Effects, came out when only 2 workers and 2 archeologists made 31 vertical sections without using mechanical tools in 33 days, while the workers were occupied with other actions too.
    •    The mentioned findings during the saving excavation prove the hurried carelessness of the above investigation.
    •    No qualified person in matters of ancient metallurgy participates in this autopsy. As resulted from the subsequent excavation, certain findings were found, which prove the existence of mining activity and of human settlement in the ancient times.

After the autopsy made in the area, the Central Archeological Council (decision Nr 21/16.6.2009) voted positively for the excavation of an open-pit, under the conditions, proposed by the archeological services as to protect the antiquities – revealed or not – ( saving excavation , digital scanning as to represent in a museum or in another place, the manufacture of three dimensional representation , the work’s supervision by an archeologist and the pause of works in case  antiquities were discovered ) . Afterwards the Cultural Ministry approved the Study  of Environmental Effects (Protocol Nr. ΥΠΠΟ/ΓΔΑΠΚ/ΑΡΧ/Α1/Φ16/55765/2902/29-7-2009).

Still, the results of the later excavation, obviously overturn the data according which, the Central Archeological Council and Ministry of Culture based the approval of the assessment of Environmental Effects, presented by the company “Hellenic Gold”.

Besides, the report of Ephorate of Antiquities of Chalkidiki and Mount Athos doesn’t mention anything relevant to the existence of another ancient site found in the area (as shown in the map) and probably proves human and cultural activity in Skouries.

At the same time the local society requests from the responsible archaeological authority, information relatively to the results concluded after the examination of objects that people themselves found in the area and in turn gave them to the authorities. The people want to know if the metal objects found were radio-dated and identified relating to the mine (this method is used very often and revealed in the past a connection between the findings in Vergina, capital of Ancient Macedon Kingdom, with mines allover Greece).

At 12/3/2011 during a congress of Geology section of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and of  the committee of Geology of the Greek geological company , Mr Michalis Vavelidis, professor of Aristoteleio University, stated that “ the second in terms of size  ( after Lavrio ) Greek mining center exists in the North and East part of Chalkidiki peninsula . The minerals in this area are rich in gold, silver, lead and copper. In some places as Metagitsi, Mavres Petres, Olymbiada (ancient Stageira), traces of gold operation were found, which are probably related to the Prehistoric period. The investigations show that in that area and at least since the 7th century B.C. onwards, the people used to prosess lead and silver. In the 7th century B.C. people from Andros Island established ancient Stagira”.

 Reports like the one just mentioned in combination with the subsequent findings of saving excavation, prove mineral activity in Skouries, at least during historic times. We should mention that similar metallurgical findings in Lavrio were scientifically investigated in a strictly analytical and scientific way. (http: // www.ancmet.metal .ntua.gr/index.htm (National Metsoveio Polytechnic School of Engineers of Mines and of Metallurgy “Academics Excavation of Lavrio”.

For all the above mentioned reasons and because many important ancient findings  were found and must be evaluated by expert scientists, we REQUEST from the Central Archeological Council, the following:

We have not only a legal interest but the obligation to protect the cultural heritage of our area as an outcome of our respect and duty to our history and to our civilization and also to the Constitution, article Nr 24, paragraph1, which clearly orders that “the protection of natural and cultural environment is a duty of State and a right of each citizen. In order to protect the environment, the State must take preventive and repressive measures to defend the principle of an everlasting development. Paragraph 6 orders that “the monuments, the traditional areas and elements must be protected by the State. The State will define the laws to protect the environment and will take restrictive measures relevant to the ownership and to ensure the form and the way of owners’ compensation “.

***

Based on the above and after the proposal of Ephorate of Antiquities of Chalkidiki and of Mount Athos and after the information of the  archeologist in charge that in Skouries has been discovered an installation of ancient copper metallurgy as well as traces of human settlement of 2nd century B.C.,  new data become available which now reverse any kind of theory providing for  the removal of copper rests from other places to Skouries. Based on this theory the Cultural Ministry and the State Council have taken decisions in the past.  Thus we REQUEST not to approve the activity’s continuation as described in the report of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chalkidiki and of Mount Athos at 5/1/2015, but instead to keep the area of Skouries as it is, to protect the place from natural devastations and from excavating works until the relevant works are completed.

The discovery of the ancient copper installation of 2nd century B.C. , due to the excavation in Skouries , creates new data regarding the human presence in Kakavos mountain during historic times – if we take into account the official reports of archeologists of the 6th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities , which refer to some other places with archeological interest close to Skouries , and must be carefully examined . In addition, we REQUEST from the Archeological Service to proceed to investigations to areas indicated by inhabitants close to Skouries , where 19 graves , jars , coins , earthen statuettes and other objects were found and were given to the Archeology Service according to the legal procedures . Some archeologists have made autopsies in that area .Thus we request from the Archeological Service to include these autopsies in the file of the archeological area .of Skouries . According to our information , the mentioned objects given to Archeological Service , are now in the archeological museums of Polygiros and of Thessaloniki , and in the museum of Ouranoupoli’s Tower .

We REQUEST action to be taken for the rescue as well as the promotion of Skouries ancient place , as to be part of the whole archeological area of South and East Chalkidiki  together with ancient Stageira ,  Akanthos and  any other human settlement or monument of the past that has been discovered or may be found in  future . This will contribute to the sustainable development of the area , through the evaluation of cultural inheritance . For this purpose we REQUEST  the revision of the decision Nr 21/16.6.2009 of Central Archeological Council relevant to the scope of the existing excavation in Skouries and the conducting of further investigations in order to declare the  antiquities as monuments – protected by the law 3028/2002 “ Protection of Antiquities and of Cultural Inheritance” .

Relatively to our proposal , we note that in International Convention of Granada regarding  the protection of Europe’s architectural inheritance – certified by the1st article of law Nr 2039/1992 ( A’ 61 ) , is specified that the  architectural inheritance” as described in this convention , includes- among other  properties- the  monuments  which refer to every kind of construction due to specific historical , archeological , artistic , scientific , social or technical interest , including installations or decorative elements which are part of them' as well as the “ architectural structures which include homogeneous sets of urban constructions  of important  historical , archeological , artistic, scientific, social or technical interest , which are inter-connected so as to form unities that can be topographically specified ( article nr 1 ) . Also note that “  In the area that includes monuments inside architectural unities , every participant should take measures as to improve environment’s quality . ( article nr 7 ) .

As resulted from the article Nr1 of law 2039/1992 , the constructions of technical interest are classified as monuments , including the installations of ancient activity in Skouries , contrary to the controversial proposal of the responsible Ephorate of Antiquities of Chalkidiki and of Mount Athos at 5/1/2015 , which describes them as non preservable .

If the above proposal is approved, it will deprive forever the monument as well as the scientific and the local society from the possibility of examining the linking of Skouries ancient area with the wider architectural areas, as described in the International Convention of Granada , regarding the protection of Europe’s architectural inheritance – certified by the the 1st article of law nr 2039/1992 ( A’61 ) . This was also pointed out by the 10th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities presenting a negative opinion ( 4373/7/8.2006 ).

The reputable lawyer Mr. Panayiotis Pikrammenos, in State’s Council decision Nr. 3279/2003 notes :  “ By the Constitution’s article Nr 24 , the major protection of cultural environment is established , meaning the protection of monuments as well as of other cultural possessions derived from human activity and participate -due to their historical , artistic or scientific interest- in the Greek Cultural Inheritance . This protection includes the maintenance of the mentioned cultural elements for ever .
Thus every intervention to an ancient element or other close to it , should first of all  aim to protecting and promoting it ,   to maintaining the specific characteristics of protective findings ,  to the enrichment of archeological science , to  prohibiting interventions and to the non conventional use of the ancient element . Furthermore the article nr 50 of regulative law 5351/1932 provides that the license of Cultural Ministry relevant to  ancient elements , could be given only for their protection , under the condition that the safety of each ancient element during any activity is in advance ensured . On the other hand when the Cultural Minister grants a permission for works close to ancient areas , this permission must be completely justified and must include :
    •    complete description of protective ancient elements
    •    complete description of the operation to be done
    •    complete and documented estimation of operations’ effects to the ancient elements
The article Nr 50 of law Nr 5351/1932 prohibits any construction close to an ancient statue , or to a further area that includes an ancient monument or in any area proper for the monument's promotion”

As it comes from the mapping of Skouries ancient area in August of 2015 ( picture nr. 2 ) , during the  works regarding the open excavation of gold and copper by the company “ Greek Gold S.A. ) , doesn’t exist any safety distance from the ancient elements , instead, the operation takes place almost on the ancient area . For this reason we REQUEST from the Central Archeological Council to decide in relation to taking further protective measures and for effective control of landshaping and of other works being done in this place .

We also REQUEST from the Archeology Service to  take  measures regarding other sites as well outside the area of open excavation in Skouries , where works for constructing a factory take place ( “ foundations for placing mechanical equipment “ ) in place Koniari , close to Skouries and also in places Karatza and Lotsaniko – where works for depilation and for forming the ground in order to construct 2 damns for throwing the waste are taking place - .( picture Nr.1 ) . We should also note that in the sub-project of Skouries made by the company “Hellenic Gold S.A. “ , some buildings have been constructed – for those an investigation is now on to find out whether they have the authorized permission - , roads for trucks are also constructed and other works for substructure take place , in sites where no report was issued by the Archeological Service .

In addition to the above , we REQUEST to be adequetly informed for any other discovery in the wider area of Skouries  inside the fieldwork of the company “ Greek Gold S.A, ) , as mapping the area in August of 2015 , another site of archeological and historical interest was found , close to the enrichment factory , for which no written or oral report has been issued by  the responsible archeologist or by the supervisory sector .

We appeal to your sensitivity not only as scientists but also as citizens of this country and we request from you not to consent to the damage of the ancient area , believing that above all  , the Greek archeologists agree for the revelation , the rescue , the investigation and the promotion of our cultural inheritance . For this reason we REQUEST from the Central Archeological Council to use all the  means in its disposal in order to to rescue  the ancient area and to promote  it .

Based on all the above , we may  adopt legal action in future  against anyone responsible .

We should also note that recently the General Court of European Union in its decision , has detected contraventions and illegalities  of Common Market regarding the contract of sale of Kassandra’s mines on the part of the Greek State at 12/2/2003 , to the company “ Greek Gold S.A. , as the sale not only referred to a lower price than the market value but also exemted the company from the obligation of paying the tax involved . We believed that the matter as was emerged from the decision of the European Court, is not restricted only to the amount of 15,34 millions of euro that the company must pay to the Greek State as extra interests , but also to the circumstances and the procedures adopted during the sale of Kassandra’s mines . And that because the General Court of European Union with this decision , claims that that the Greek State accepting the certain contract, didn’t protect its interests , didn’t ensure its incomes that should receive but instead  promoted the company “ Greek Gold S.A. “ against competitors , thus causing a distortion in the competition held .

We should also note the report of the decision of the European Committee dated in 23/2/2011 , which has detected the mentioned violations and has given directions according to the General Court of European Union “ The environmental and the social problems are by nature matters concerning the public policy and are in custody of public authorities . A market salesman would probably take into consideration matters of unemployment and of environment in a limited scale in order to protect or  maintain his brand name as a responsible enterprise in social and environmental terms , taking care of course not to harm his major financial interests

We don’t intend to ask of the members of the Archaeological Council to analyze legislative tasks or other texts of European Union irrelevant to their object , but we do intend to indicate once more that according to our belief the whole matter haw not ended in terms of law, administration and politics so as to allow the Archailogical Council to issue a decision  not to cause the damage of the ancient area in Skouries  of local district of Megali Panagia  in municipality of Aristotelis in Chalkidiki or cause the damage of the surrounding area at least until the necessary procedures are completed .

As we are informed, during the whole year of 2016 severl events will take place in the area of South and East Chalkidiki under the auspices of “ International Year of Aristotelis “ , supported by Unesco . Thus we REQUEST from the archeological service to participate effectively in this top -according to our opinion-  meeting  by proceeding to a further investigation in the area of Skouries , in Kakavos mountain , close to the local district of Megali Panagia as well as in other sites of archeological interest in the wider area of municipality of Aristotelis , in Chalkidiki . It would be a pity if the archeological service finally allows the damage of the installation of ancient copper metallurgy of 2nd century B.C. , which cannot be replaced by a three dimension representation  or by creating an installation that will present the findings either in a museum , or  7 klm away from its present location .

We also REQUEST  that all findings related to the archeological area of Skouries and in other sites inside the work field of company “ Greek Gold S.A  to be presented during the International Year of  Aristotelis so as the local society and in general the people either  in Greece or abroad , could be informed regarding the cultural inheritance  as it is brought to light  by the archeological investigation . For this reason we REQUEST  of the archeological service to contribute accordingly in order to ensure all the necessary conditions that will allow the access to the archeological area of Skouries for the local sectors of municipality and for historical and educational councils as the Educational – Historical Council of people of Megali Panagia that live in Thessaloniki , the Historical – Folklore museum of Revenikia of  Megali Panagia and for any other person interested in this matter . All the above should also be able to visit all the other sites of archeological interest inside the work field  of the sub-project in Skouries , and should have an access to all information included in the file held by the responsible Ephorate of Antiquities of Chalkidiki and of Mount Athos , as to inform the public through the issuing of audiovisual material , informative meetings and est. , for which we REQUEST the permission and the support of the Archeological Service .