The fresco conservation laboratory, housed within the archaeological site at Akrotiri, Thera (Santorini) since 1967, has been closed due to lack of financial means that would keep it open and operating.
According to Prof. Christos Doumas, the excavation project’s director and direct successor of Spyridon Marinatos (who revealed the world-famous site during the late sixites), the fresco fragments are now under constant danger to be transformed into “nests for mice”.
It was Marinatos who began excavating at Akrotiri back in 1967. “Since then and till 3-4 years ago, the Ministry of Culture was giving a special fund to the Archaeological Society in Athens for this dig. Then, it stopped. They just stopped sending money”, says Doumas, who spoke to Greek website Enet.gr.
Frescoes as a group consist some of the dig’s most important finds which make the excavation unique in the world, being the subject for a hundred-title-long bibliography in many languages. “These frescoes are in fragmentary condition. However, our conservators have managed to gather these fragments and to gradually join them together, so that today we are in position to see large murals dating back in 1600 BC”, Doumas explains.
The frescoes lab, which operates since 1967, was set up by leading conservators such as Tassos Margaritof and Stavros Baltoyannis and became the “cradle” for three generations of high profile conservators. In its ‘glory’, the lab was reminiscent of an operation theatre where experts were performing delicate interventions, completing three thousand-old, delicate puzzles. “Till last years, we managed to operate the lab through funds from private donors, friends of the project”, says Doumas. “But for the first time this year, the lab closed. Two girls found a job in Egypt and they emigrated. How could they live here? I am losing my conservators, and if this situation continues, I will lose them for good. The lab has to operate again!”
According to Enet.gr, the monthly costs for the lab are approximately 5 to 6,000 euros, “equal to the salary earned by each of those, virtually non-working, minister consultants…”
Doumas still remembers a 1977 meeting with Constantinos Trypanis, a remarkable scholar serving as Minister of Culture back in the day, who had said: “This excavation project has to remain in Greek hands. It is unique worldwide and I don’t believe it is going to be any Greek government that will not support it”. Unfortunately, he was wrong. “The dig is failed by a government whose both the President and its Vice-president have served as Ministers of Culrure”, says Doumas.