01 July 2008

Monumental Morass

It seems there's a lot of problems with various ancient monuments being either neglected, cut off from the public or being degraded by ugly and poorly planned fencing and temporary buildings and other problems. It was recently reported that many ancient sites in Greece are falling to bits because of neglect. There have also been complaints about various Grecian sites being cut off from tourists or being open only for short days or being closed altogether to visitors due to lack of staff.

Yesterday, the authoritative newspaper Sunday Vima disclosed that the Cycladic isle of Delos - the site of Apollo's mythological sanctuary and one of Greece's most important ancient venues - resembled an "archaeological rubbish dump". Recently, it emerged that many sites, including Delphi, Mycenae and the spectacular Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri on the popular island of Santorini, were only partially open or permanently closed.

Due to overwhelming criticism, mostly from tourists and tour guides, the Grecian government has made a push to add more staff to various sites and has publicly admitted the disgraceful state of many prominent ancient sites.

Now there's some more controversy brewing about the state of Stonehenge. Specifically, what was supposed to be a temporary visitors center has instead been left for years and is quite unsightly. There is also much to do about proposed roadways and promises the British government hasn't--so far--kept. It's reached the point where, once again, an elder Druid is camping near Stonehenge in protest.

Pendragon, 54, is hoping his protests will encourage the Government to remove the fences around the monument, build a tunnel over the A303 and grass over the A344...A public inquiry was set up in 2004 to look at ways of improving the traffic flow in and around the Stonehenge area. Among the many options that were discussed were a new dual carriageway and a 2.1km bored tunnel.

Seems Pendragon protested similarly in the 90s with success as the site was eventually opened to the public, whereas before it hadn't been.

All of these problems surrounding these ancient temples and sites saddens me and not just as a pagan but as a lover of all things ancient. Ancient sites are the remnants of the roots of our modern society. They hold so much mystery and have so much to teach us. As a pagan I naturally appreciate these places as many of them were worship centers for the ancient pagan and thus have a clear connection to modern pagans. Back in the day the gods were worshiped with multiple daily offerings at these temples, they are holy places, they are sacred. And I applaud Mr. Pendragon for his efforts to improve the state of things over in England.

I guess these problems are just a symptom of our Christianity-drenched society; the old pagan places just aren't very important. I'm cynical enough to imagine that many Abrahamic folks would prefer these ancient sites were bulldozed. I'm still baffled, however, by the British and Grecian governments' letting these important places go to hell; they are, after all, huge draws for tourists. Tourism is vitally important to both countries, and it amazes me that they'd shoot themselves in the foot this way.

P.S. Pompeii is now in a state of emergency due to its sad state.

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