So says Texas A&M University’s Prof. Shelley Wachsmann in a very good ABC (Australia) piece on the dangers facing underwater heritage sites in Greece, and a new Greek law which may open Greece’s coastline to increased diving.
Greece’s 1932 antiquities law says all artefacts on land and in the sea belong to the state, but it does not regulate scuba diving, . . .
A new law implemented in 2007 and designed to promote tourism opens most of Greece’s 15,000km coastline to scuba divers, except for about 100 known archaeological sites.Greece’s archaeologists’ union and two ecological societies have appealed for the law to be rescinded.
Meanwhile, some tour companies are luring tourists with the promise of ancient artefacts.“Scuba diving in Greece is permitted everywhere … Ideal for today’s treasure hunter,” says the website www.scuba-greece.com.
The director of antiquities at the Culture Ministry, Katerina Dellaporta, says metal detectors and bathyspheres allow treasure hunters to find artefacts with ease in the Adriatic and Aegean.
“It’s good to have tourism, but we must protect antiquities,” she said.
“Not every diver is an illegal trafficker… but we need to ensure these treasures remain for future generations.” . . .Most of the world-famous bronzes in Greece’s National Archaeological Museum, such as the 5th-century BC statue of Poseidon hurling his trident found off Cape Artemision, were salvaged from the sea.
Statues on land tended to be destroyed or melted down for coins or weapons.
Some were found in shallow-water shipwrecks like the one off Antikythera, believed to be a 1st century BC Roman ship carrying a haul of ancient Greek art back to Italy.
Other precious statues were dredged from the deep ocean in fishermen’s nets.Greece offers handsome rewards to prevent relics falling into private hands.It paid 440,000 euros ($872,000) to a fisherman for a female torso off the island of Kalymnos in 2005.