Akrotiri ex­ca­va­tions on San­torini start up again with fund­ing in­jec­tion from Eu­gene Kasper­sky

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY MAR­GARITA POURNARA

“What I find mag­i­cal about Akrotiri and the decades-long, on­go­ing ar­chae­o­log­i­cal re­search is the sense of an un­pre­dictable past. The fact that fol­low­ing a vol­cano erup­tion 3,500 years ago, we mod­ern peo­ple are try­ing to com­pre­hend how these peo­ple lived back then. And I be­lieve that we have plenty to dis­cover. Do you think that 3,500 years from now any­one will be in­ter­ested in find­ing out how we lived?” Eu­gene Kasper­sky told a group of jour­nal­ists who had gath­ered at the ancient site on the is­land of San­torini re­cently.

A Rus­sian cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­pert whose in­ter­na­tional soft­ware se­cu­rity group Kasper­sky Lab spe­cial­izes in an­tivirus pro­grams, Kasper­sky was un­veil­ing an ini­tia­tive that will see re­search ac­tiv­ity re­turn to the ancient site.

Stand­ing along­side pro­fes­sor Chris­tos Doumas, who heads the ex­ca­va­tion project in Akrotiri, Kasper­sky said he was pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial back­ing for three ma­jor projects which will no doubt un­earth fresh in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the city that was wiped out by a vol­canic ex­plo­sion which oc­curred be­tween 1600 and 1500 BC.

Mean­while, the tech-savvy Rus­sian also ex­pressed his de­sire to see the cre­ation of a space for the dis­play of the Akrotiri find­ings, es­sen­tially rais­ing hope re­gard­ing the de­vel­op­ment of a mu­seum.

Cheer­ful and well-pre­pared, Kasper­sky noted he had wanted to see Akrotiri back in 2005, but that he had been un­able to visit since the area had been sealed off fol­low­ing the col­lapse of part of the roof.

He re­turned to the Cy­cladic is­land in 2013 and be­gan think­ing of fi­nan­cially sup­port­ing the ex­ca­va­tion be­cause of the site’s unique char­ac­ter.

Al­though the busi­ness­man re­fused to un­veil the ex­act amount of his con­tri­bu­tion, he must have been rather gen­er­ous, judg­ing by the fact that the three sec­tions he is fo­cus­ing on re- quire a steady fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment.

His first move was to fi­nance the re­sump­tion of ex­ca­va­tion work fol­low­ing 16 years of in­ac­tiv­ity. While more than 30 build­ings have been dis­cov­ered since the days of pro­fes­sor Spy­ros Mar­i­natos (1901-74) – whose ex­ca­va­tion ef­forts led to the dis­cov­ery of the ancient site be­tween 1967 and 1974 – only six of these have been fully ex­am­ined.

Now a team of ar­chae­ol­o­gists is re­turn­ing to an area un­der­neath the shel­ter, where a gold goat stat­uette was dis­cov­ered a few years ago.

“What is worth not­ing in this case is not only that the ob­ject was lo­cated in a wooden box, but that the city’s ancient res­i­dents left it be­hind when they evac­u­ated the area in or­der to save them­selves. As a re­sult, fig­ur­ing out what the build­ing it was found in served as is of ma­jor in­ter­est,” Doumas said.

a Mi­noan Bronze Age set­tle­ment on the vol­canic Greek is­land of San­torini. A Rus­sian cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­pert whose in­ter­na­tional soft­ware se­cu­rity group Kasper­sky Lab spe­cial­izes in an­tivirus pro­grams, Eu­gene Kasper­sky has launched an ini­tia­tive that will see re­search ac­tiv­ity re­turn to the ancient site.

Kasper­sky – who also spon­sors the Scud­e­ria Fer­rari For­mula 1 team – is also foot­ing the bill for the main­te­nance of build­ings which have been dis­cov­ered at the San­torini ancient site – whether re­searched or not.

At the same time he will pro­vide fund­ing for the mu­ral ren­o­va­tion work­shop. The project had come un­der fi­nan­cial strain in the past and would have ceased op­er­a­tions al­to­gether had it not been for the con­stant spon­sor­ship of Aris­tei­dis Alafouzos, pres­i­dent of Kathimerini’s board of di­rec­tors. A San­torini na­tive, Alafouzos has re­peat­edly backed up his pas­sion for ex­ca­va­tions on the is­land with fund­ing.

While the Rus­sian en­tre­pre­neur has un­der­taken the ren­o­va­tion of mu­rals lo­cated in a build­ing known as Xesti 4, Alafouzos is pro­vid­ing funds for work at Xesti 3. A team of 16 con­ser­va­tors are al­ready work­ing at the site.

“The mu­ral pieces are so frag­ile that even a sneeze could put them in dan­ger,” noted Doumas. “The soil is the best pro­tec­tor of an­tiq­ui­ties, an ar­chive full of in­for­ma­tion. Ev­ery time we ex­ca­vate we read the ar­chive, but we nev­er­the­less cre­ate some dam­age. Af­ter so many years I can tell you I’m not in a hurry. Our top pri­or­ity is for the work to be car­ried out prop­erly.”

Given the Rus­sian spon­sor­ship, dig­ging and restora­tion work is now set to re­veal new dis­cov­er­ies.

“Eu­gene Kasper­sky’s in­ter­na­tional con­tacts as well his in­ten­tion to per­suade other spon­sors to back us makes me feel par­tic­u­larly con­tent,” Doumas added as the group of jour­nal­ists were be­ing guided around the ancient site.

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