Protesters took to the streets in Athens, Greece, on Tuesday, March 14 to decry an assault of state-employed archeologist Manolis Psarros. Some believe the attack was connected to Psarros’s regulatory work preserving cultural antiquities on the island of Mykonos and ongoing pressures from the tourism industry.
Last week, an unidentified man and his accomplice struck the 53-year-old archaeologist as he entered his car, causing Psarros to lose consciousness, collapse, and bleed. Psarros’s partner told the Greek newspaper Protothema that the archaeologist received punches to the face, head, and sternum. An employee of the Cyclades Antiquities Authority, a Ministry of Culture and Sports department, Psarros was taken to the hospital and is now recovering at home after suffering broken ribs and widespread bruises.
Culture Ministry employees ceased working for five hours in response to what protesters are calling a “mafia-style attack.” Despina Koutsoumba, who leads the protesting archaeologist association, alleges the assault is potentially connected to recent cases of the Cyclades Antiquities Authority blocking real estate development in Mykonos, according to reporting by the Greek magazine Parallaxi.
“He has no trouble in his personal life — debts or anything like that — that would justify anything like this,” Koutsoumba told the Associated Press.
The Ministry of Culture and Sport has not responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.
Protesters, including ministry employees and professionals from the National Association of Archeological Conservators, are demanding increased protections for public officials in roles like Psarros’s and are refusing to work on cases involving Mykonos through the end of the month when the association plans a visit to the resort island.
Mykonos, a popular tourist destination and Instagram backdrop for influencers, is one of Greece’s most important archeological sites. Off the coast of Mykonos, the island and UNESCO heritage site of Delos is the birthplace of Apollo, according to Greek myth. Apollo’s sanctuary was a popular destination for pilgrims through the first century BCE, and the island became an essential commercial port by the 2nd century CE. However, researchers worry about the increased stress on and degradation of important monuments and cultural sites in Greece largely caused by excessive tourism, an ongoing issue in Mykonos.
The attack on Psarros potentially shows mounting tensions between cultural preservationists and the tourism industry in the South Aegean region. (In 2022, the National Bank of Greece predicted €20 billion, or about $21 million, in revenue for the tourism industry, according to the French newspaper Le Monde.) According to Parallaxi, a recent shift in laws changed the composition of the South Aegean local council to no longer seat a majority of archeologists, which protesters have seen as an attack on cultural heritage. In demands shared with Parallaxi, the Association of Greek Archaeologists affirms that the attack won’t stop ministry employees from doing their jobs.
“The fighting archaeologists and related scientific disciplines will continue to protect antiquities as a public good, strictly applying the Archaeological Law,” the group wrote.