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by Archaeology Newsroom

Greek industrial archaeology

First approach.

Industry being the trade mark of our time and a basic factor for economic growth has become a major problem to contemporary countries. However, industry is also a historic phenomenon. From James Watt’s invention until today industry has been discovered three times. First, by the middle class of entrepreneurs as a medium of financial and social supremacy secondly, by artists as an instrument of aesthetic renovation and social criticism and a third time, recently, by science as a vehicle for preserving memory.

Greek industry: 1860-1920.

The birth of Greek Industry could be placed back in the 1860s and in the early 1870s when the steam wheat mills and the yarn mills start to be installed and multiply, the Hermopolis tanneries on Syros island are organised and the first mines begin to operate. This first cycle of industrial development lasts up to almost the last decade of the 19th century. In 1921 Roussopoulos gives a concise account of Greek industry and handicrafts: “There have been and there are still many politicians and experts who believe that Greece is mainly an agricultural and secondarily a commercial country; therefore it cannot and should not develop industry. The annexation of new lands in the first twenty years of the 20th century (Crete, Macedonia, Epirus, Aegean islands) added new important industrial centres (Thessaloniki, Naoussa, Mytilini), while at the same time the population increased and the market was expanded. However, the industrial concentration in the area of the so-called old Greece – as distinguished from the new lands – is clear since it represents the 72% of medium-sized and 67% of the large industries.

Industrial heritage as a field of science.

So far, the evolution of Greek industry outlined above, expresses a continuity of industry particular to Greece, which we should reconstruct on the basis of all kinds of evidence in our possesion; factories or industrial zones, workers’ dwellings, railroads, town infrastructure. Also we have to take into account all the individual elements of the aforementioned evidence, i.e., the individual machine or tool. The wide space between the large and the small scale in Greece could be covered by the systematic and thorough research of industrial archaeology. The achievements of the scientific-technical revolution and of cybernetics in particular would allow us to build up evidence of material belonging to the field of heritage. Understanding this material is a task of historic significance for the public and especially for the new generation, as it permits definition of our past identity.