The Artemision Shipwreck: Sinking Into the ASCSA Archives

In late 1928 the Greek and the international press published several articles and photos of a sensational archaeological discovery: a large bronze male statue found near Cape Artemision, in the north of Euboea. On central display at the Archaeological Museum in Athens since 1930, the statue is known to the public as the Aremision Zeus (or Poseidon).

The Artemision Zeus (or Poseidon) at the National Archaeological Museum, photographed by Alison Frantz in 1957. ASCSA Archives, Alison Frantz Photographic Collection.

Two years before, in the same area, fishermen had caught in their nets the left arm of a bronze statue that was also transferred to the National Museum in Athens. That discovery did not, however, provoke any further archaeological exploration in the area, most likely for fiscal reasons. But then in September 1928, the local authorities in Istiaia, a town in northern Euboea, were informed of illicit activity in the sea near Artemision. Acting fast, they sailed to the spot and caught a fisherman’s boat filled with diving equipment. Not only that, its crew had already pulled out the right arm of a bronze statue. A few days later the authorities were able to bring up from the bottom of the sea a nearly complete male, larger than life, statue. The first photos showed the armless statue laying on its back on a layer of hay (Note how the area of the genitals has been conveniently darkened in the newspaper photos so that the public would not be offended by the nudity of the statue.)

The San Francisco Examiner, December 23, 1928

It was obvious that there was here an ancient shipwreck at the bottom of the sea, and that the Greek Archaeological Service needed to act fast before there could occur any new illicit diving in the area. However, underwater excavations are notoriously expensive since they require special equipment and trained divers. Nevertheless, by November of 1928, having secured 180,000 drachmas from the Greek government, the Archaeological Service sent the steamship Pleias, archaeologist Nikos Bertos, and a crew of divers to locate the shipwreck. Descending to a depth of nearly 45-50 meters (ca. 120-150 feet) and under extremely bad weather conditions, Bertos was able to retrieve the forepart of the body of a horse with its head and the largest part of the statue of a young male rider, who has since been known as the Jockey of Artemision. 

The Guardian, October 23, 1929

In the early spring of 1929, Bertos, in another heroic effort, retrieved more parts of the horse and the rider, as well as some of the ancient ship’s ballast and pottery.  Bertos promptly published an excellent account of his discoveries in the Archaeologikon Deltion (Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον) of 1929. In 2004, based on Bertos’s account and press clippings, Sean Hemingway, now Curator of Greek Antiquities at the Metrοpolitan Museum of Art, has offered us a new account of the discovery of the Artemision shipwreck in his book, The Horse and Jockey from Artemision (Hemingway 2004, pp. 35-42).

Zeus or Poseidon

Of the three bronzes, the easiest to conserve and display immediately was the nude, oversized male. By 1930, the impressive striding god with his extended arms was on full display in the National Museum. That same year Dutch archaeologist Hendrick G. Beyen (1901-1965) published the first monograph recognizing the statue as Poseidon. Soon afterward archaeologist Christos Karouzos (1900-1967) published a long article supporting the Poseidon identification. In 1944, George Mylonas, professor of archaeology at Washington University in Saint Louis (WUSL), published the first account in English that accepted Georgios Oikonomos’s identification of the statue as Zeus. (Oikonomos was the first to report officially the discovery of the statue in the Proceedings of the Academy of Athens in 1928.) Since then the majority of scholars have accepted the Zeus identification, although Poseidon has not been completely abandoned.

The jockey on a stand, photographed by Alison Frantz in 1956. ASCSA Archives, Alison Frantz Photographic Collection.

The Jockey and the Horse

Unlike the male statue, the public display of the jockey and horse was delayed for decades by the challenges presented in conserving them. In photos taken by Alison Frantz in the 1950s, we see the jockey displayed alone, on a metal stand. In addition, not everybody agreed that the jockey and the horse were contemporary. Ernst Buschor dated both the god from Artemision and the horse to the early 5th century B.C. Others such as Walter-Herwig Schuchhardt and Margarete Bieber argued for a Hellenistic date. In 1972 the restoration of the horse was completed and for the first time, the jockey and the horse were united and displayed as a single composition at the National Archaeological Museum (NAM). After a careful study of their stylistic features, Vassilis Kallipolitis (1910-1983), then director of the NAM, identified the composition as classicizing with a date in the middle of the 2nd century B.C.

I borrow most of this information from Hemingway’s thorough study of the Jockey and Horse Group, where he reviews past scholarship and offers his own interpretation based on additional technical and chemical studies. But coincidentally, while Sean was preparing his publication, the ASCSA Archives acquired the personal papers of a Greek sculptor, George Kastriotis (1899-1969). The main motivation for acquiring Kastriotis’s archive was his connection with the Schliemann family. Kastriotis was the nephew of Sophia Schliemann, and his papers contained information about the Schliemann family.

A study of the horse fragments by sculptor and conservator George Kastriotis, 1936. ASCSA Archives, George Kastriotis Papers.

Archival collections intercommunicate like “communicating vessels.” While processing the Kastriotis papers, we came across two detailed drawings of the Artemision horse. Why? Kastriotis was working as a conservator at the National Archaeological Museum in 1936 when more pieces of the horse were caught in a fishing net. “It was only in 1936 that the hindquarters and part of the body of a bronze horse were discovered by fishermen dragging the seabed with nets off Cape Artemision. An archaeological report in the Bulletin de correspondence hellénique illustrates this large fragment…” (Hemingway 2004, 42). And Kastriotis was trying to see, at least on paper, whether the new fragments belonged to the horse fragments that had been retrieved in 1928.

Bulletin de correspondence hellénique 60, 1936, p. 452, pl. 49.

Hemingway, as did Kallipolitis, dates the group to the 2nd century B.C., further connecting the Artemision shipwreck with the sack of Corinth by general Mummius in 146 B.C. According to Pausanias, Mummius, after sacking Corinth, sent most of the city’s statues to Rome and some to Pergamon. The fact that some of the pottery retrieved from the shipwreck was of Pergamene origin has been used to suggest that the ship was sent from Pergamon to pick up booty from Corinth, unfortunately sinking off Cape Artemision on its way back (Hemingway 2004, 146-147). Other theories have speculated a different point of departure for the bronzes, including the sanctuaries at Dion, Delphi, Demetrias, and more recently the sanctuary of Poseidon at Onchestus in Boeotia, where recent excavations by Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, and Alexandra Charami, Ephor of Boeotia, have discovered remains of several sacred building as well as metallic parts of harnesses. (See The Onchestos Archaeological Project.) This new discovery combined with literary sources, such as the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, about unusual chariot races with newly tamed colts at Poseidon’s precinct in Onchestos adds another candidate to the list of sanctuaries suggested for the original location of the Artemision bronzes.

American Interest

From Lucy S. Meritt’s History of the American School of Classical Studies (hereafter ASCSA or the School), we learn that the ASCSA was also briefly involved in the retrieval of the Artemision shipwreck in 1952. “Professor Mylonas who served as Annual Professor in 1951-52… in fall 1952 with S. A. Dontas and Chr. Karouzos directed the sea investigation of the ship found earlier off Artemision, this latter actually with a permit issued to the American School” (Meritt 1984, p. 60). “We employed five divers with two diving suits and a sailing boat equipped with appropriate machinery, and the ‘Alkyone’… The divers worked in the morning and until one in the afternoon; then the ‘Alkyone’ took over and in the afternoon dragged the floor of the ocean… Unfortunately, we have no find to report, but we were able to locate the ship which in 1928 yielded the bronze statues…” mentions Mylonas’s report to the School (AdmRec 204/4 folder 4).  With this in mind I was able to identify some snapshots from the 1952 exploration in the George Mylonas Papers.

George Mylonas (front row, left) and the crew of the Alkyone, September 1952. ASCSA Archives, George E. Mylonas Papers.
Artemision Project, September 1952. ASCSA Archives, George E. Mylonas Papers.

I became further interested in the Artemision shipwreck when, recently, I came across correspondence referring to it in the School’s Administrative Records, as well as in the Oscar Broneer Papers. The files I found, however, were not about Mylonas’s project; instead, they preserved correspondence from the years 1936-1938, and their content is not mentioned in either of the two published ASCSA histories. The key figure in the School’s effort to initiate new underwater research at Artemision in the 1930s was not an archaeologist after all, but an American industrialist: Philip R. Allen of Walpole, Massachusetts.

“I had luncheon with Mr. Allen in Boston and he was full of his archaeological interests in Greece. He hopes that there will be soon a favorable response to his proposal to [George] Oikonomos about the Artemesium project. The terms he proposed seem to me very generous, as I understood them—viz. if the Government would furnish the tug-boat with derrick equipment, and would agree to recompense the divers for their finds in some reasonable amount, he himself would defray all other expenses, including the wages of the men; and the Government would send an ephor to oversee the work,” wrote Edward Capps, the Chair of the School’s Managing Committee, to Oscar Broneer, Associate Professor of Archaeology at the School, on June 16, 1936.  Mr. Allen was also the main sponsor of Broneer’s excavations on the North Slope of the Acropolis. The School was also hoping that Allen would pick up some of the expenses for the restoration of the Lion of Amphipolis, a project that was in the works at the same time. There was also talk between Capps and the President of the Board of Trustees, William Rodman Peabody, about inviting Allen to become a Trustee of the School.

Allen was chairman of Bird & Son, a company established in 1795 that owned paper mills and made roofing material. By the early 20th century the firm had expanded and built plants at various locations in Massachusetts and in other states. (By 1969 it employed nearly 2500 employees and produced such products as shoe cartons, asphalt shingles and siding, tack boxes, and frozen food container. In 1983 its name was changed to Bird Inc., and then again in 1990 to its current name Bird Corporation. For more, see Norwood Historical Society.)

Allen was also active on various boards, such as the Greater Boston Salvation Army Advisory Board, while in 1938 he was elected President of the Trustees of the New England Conservatory of Music. He appears in the list of the School’s Board of Trustees for the first time in 1943-1944, a position he held until 1962, the year of his death. “Mr. Allen was the last of the large Boston group of Trustees who virtually directed the Board’s activities during the early decades of this century. Well-grounded himself in the Classics, he was especially interested in the School’s excavations, and, fired with the romantic as well as the scientific possibilities of original methods of exploration, was a pioneer in encouraging underwater archaeology long before its recent widespread fame,” as noted in the School’s Annual Report for 1962-1963, acknowledging Allen’s earlier interest in the Artemision shipwreck.

Fishermen’s Fees

In reading Capps’s description of Allen’s plan, it struck me as odd that Allen was concerned about recompensing the local divers for their finds. A letter by Allen to Charles H. Morgan, the new Director of the School, written on August 27, 1936, provides more information about the project as well as the compensation of the divers. Allen refers to a meeting he had with Professor Georgios P. Oikonomos (Director of the Archaeological Service) in the presence of Aristeides Kyriakides, the School’s legal counsel. In so doing, Allen provides an interesting background story for his interest in the Artemision shipwreck.

For over two years Mr. George Hasslacher of New York and I have been discussing with representatives of the Greek fishermen, who claimed to be the ones who originally found the statues off Artemisium Point, the matter of further work there. They wanted to raise $10,000 in this country to carry on the work, claiming that they had seen other statues in the sea, especially the horse from which the Jockey had been pulled. They claimed to have exclusive permission from the Greek Government to do further work there and also that there would be considerable profit to those who put up the money because the Greek Government would pay well for whatever was found and if the Greek Government didn’t want the findings, they could be sold in other countries at good prices

ASCSA Archives, Charles H. Morgan Papers, box 1, folder 5

Both Allen and Hasslacher showed restraint in their communication with the fishermen and their U.S. representatives asking for “documentary proof,” which, of course, never came. When Allen went to visit Oikonomos, the latter explained “that such a project could not possibly be handled in this way; that there could be no large sum paid for any findings because the budget was small; that the best that the Greek Government ever did was to give some ‘gratification’ to the man who reported the finding and probably would pay for the expense that anybody went to in any given worthwhile finding.” Oikonomos further suggested that the Greek government could furnish some sort of a naval vessel, provided that Allen could raise the money to pay the expenses of the divers. Allen asked Morgan to continue the discussions with OIkonomos for a joint operation between the School and the Greek Government. Allen was willing to go along with whatever decision the two parties reached, with only one condition, “that Mr. Hasslacher and myself are to have the privilege of being on the expedition for as much time as we arrange to be there.”

Unfortunately two weeks after this letter was mailed, Hasslacher died tragically when he plunged sixteen floors from a building on Fortieth Street in Manhattan.  George F. Hasslacher (1896-1936) was a chemist, Princeton Class of 1917, who was part of a family business, Roessler & Hasslacher Chemical Co., that produced chlorine products, hydrogen peroxide and metal cyanids. In 1933 he joined Snyder MacLaren Processes Inc., a company specializing in protecting metal surfaces from corrosion by depositing a thin film of lead on the metal surface. Clearly Hasslacher’s involvement in the Artemision project aligned with his scientific interests.

Following Hasslacher’s unexpected death, Allen continued to pursue the Artemision Project on his own, always in communication with the School’s leadership. However, Allen’s initial contacts with the representatives of the Greek fishermen now began to work against him.  On September 25, 1936, Broneer shared with Capps a strange encounter he had had.

A gentleman, by the name Chester Valencia, who said he was a friend of Mr. Allen’s, came the other day and asked me concerning the project of searching for further statuary off the coast of Euboea… He said he had spoken to Mr. Allen before leaving America, and was now over here trying to make some kind of agreement with Mr. Gounalakis, who was formerly engaged by the government when the bronzes were brought to light. Gounalakis had given Mr. Valencia to understand that the government would grant a blank permit for searching the sea at this point, with the understanding that the finders were to receive all duplicates and have the money value of other pieces of sculpture.

ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers, box 29, folder 3

Once again there was the issue of recompensing the divers for their finds. Broneer alerted by his conversation with Valencia went to see Oikonomos. And rightly so, because Oikonomos told him that Valencia had been misinformed by Mr. Gounalakis and “that the government would under no circumstances grant a permit of that nature” and that “Mr. Allen had been informed about this matter when he was here last year.” Broneer communicated Oikonomos’s reply to Valencia, who told him that “he considered the whole project fallen through.”

A search in about Valencia produced interesting information. A Californian from Ventura County, Chester (Chet) Esteban Valencia made his first appearance in the West Coast press in 1928 as a young stowaway in a steamer to Honolulu. “He is said to have been of an adventurous nature and so known among his friends when in Ventura” reported the local newspaper (The Ventura County Star and the Ventura Daily Post, 27 Sep 1928). He lived in Honolulu until 1932 working at the McBryde Sugar Plantation in Kauai. Ten years later his name reappeared in the newspapers. This time to announce his marriage to Sylvia MacGuffog of Westboro, Mass., the niece of State Senator Charles Cabot Johnson. It was probably through his marriage into the MacGuffog family and his relocation to Massachusetts that Valencia became acquainted with Allen, and somehow concocted the plan of profiteering from the Artemision project.

The same day that Broneer was communicating to Capps his concerns about Valencia, Morgan was also dispatching a letter to Capps outlining his plan to approach the King “to get his Majesty’s interest in the proposition, for I am sure it will appeal to him” and saying that he would not bother Oikonomos (obviously unaware of Broneer’s meeting) until he had “the King’s approval of the scheme” (AdmRec 318/4, folder 1, September 25, 1936).

One of Those Romantic Dreams

Morgan’s subsequent efforts to get Oikonomos’s ear about Allen’s proposal were fruitless. “He has been very evasive about the business all fall” complained Morgan to Capps (318/4, folder 1, January 14, 1937).  Oikonomos asked to be sent a clear statement of Allen’s proposal. A few weeks later Allen mailed Morgan a statement of his proposal: “I would prefer to have this as a joint operation of the School with the Greek Government but if the Greek Government would prefer to have it as their project and the American School act as my fiscal agent, approving the bills that may be submitted covering the divers’ operations and rental of equipment (which I undertook to pay up to $1,000) that would be satisfactory to me” (AdmRec Box 204/4 folder 4, Feb. 1, 1937). According to the proposal, the Greek Government would furnish a suitable naval boat at its expense. And there was no mention of special compensation for the divers. Allen hoped that all negotiations would have progressed enough by the time of his arrival in March 1937, and that he would be able to watch the work off Cape Artemision in person. This did not happen but on May 29, 1937, after Allen had returned to the States, Morgan telegraphed: “Government will agree to Artemision Project” to which Allen immediately answered, “Congratulations Check Deposited with Treasurer Weld Today” (AdmRec 204/4 folder 4). 

Philip R. Allen and Georgios Oikonomos

Despite the good news, the Artemision Project did not progress further. The next communication between Allen and Morgan dates from April 1938. “I have put off writing this letter way beyond the bounds of propriety, but I have constantly continued to hope that I might get some sort of commitment from the Ministry about your proposal concerning work under the sea at Artemision. I mentioned the matter to the authorities on innumerable occasions, and the gist of the answers has always been that the Government cannot refuse the offer, but that there is some difficulty with the conditions as outlined when the proposal was made. This, of course, is a sheer nonsense, for you will remember how carefully we left out all conditions from the proposal,” wrote Morgan to Allen on April 11, 1938 (AdmRec Box 204/4, folder 4). Morgan concluded that “they do not feel that can refuse the offer, but are unwilling to take any steps whatever to accept it.”

Despite having the School act as an intermediary and guarantor for the Artemision Project, I suspect that the Archaeological Service got cold feet once racketeers like Valencia and Gounalakis began trying to make their own negotiations. Oikonomos and other members of the Service were probably still aware of the litigation against the Greek State by the boat crew that had retrieved the Antikythera shipwreck in the early 1900s for not having been properly recompensed (Bafataki 2018).  

“I have nothing else to do except to drop the matter… You mustn’t feel hurt about it. It was just one of those romantic dreams I wish we could have gone through…” was Allen’s final words on the Artemision Project .

AdmRec 204/4, folder 4, Allen to Morgan, April 27, 1938

And, it indeed remained just that — a dream.


Bafataki, V. 2018. “Η συμβολή των πολιτιστικών χορηγών και ευεργετών στην έρευνα και ανάδειξη της πολιτιστικής κληρονομιάς: Η περίπτωση του ναυαγίου και του μηχανισμού των Αντικυθήρων” (Senior thesis, Greek Open University).

Hemingway, S. 2004. The Horse and Jockey from Aremision: A Bronze Equestrian Monument of the Hellenistic Period, Berkeley.

Meritt, L.S. 1984. History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1939-1980, Princeton.

Mylonas, G. 1944. “The Bronze Statue from Artemision,” AJA 48, pp. 143-160.

Mylonopoulos, I. 2016. “Ἀνασκαφὴ ἱεροῦ Ποσειδῶνος στὴ βοιωτικὴ Ὀγχηστό,” PAE 2015, pp. 219-229.

Varvarousis, P. and P. Papaevaggelou 2017. Ογχήστιος Ποσειδώνας: Λατρεία και πολιτική, Athens.


Among the first things one notices when approaching the Gennadius Library is the large inscription on the architrave of the neoclassical building, built by the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or the School hereafter) in 1926 to house the personal library of John Gennadius. It reads: ΕΛΛΗΝΕΣ ΚΑΛΟΥΝΤΑΙ ΟΙ ΤΗΣ ΠΑΙΔΕΥΣΕΩΣ ΤΗΣ ΗΜΕΤΕΡΑΣ ΜΕΤΕΧΟΝΤΕΣ, that is, GREEKS THEY ARE CALLED THOSE WHO SHARE IN OUR EDUCATION. It is a line taken from Isocrates, Panegyricus 50.

The Gennadius Library. Postcard printed in the 1990s.

In the School’s Archives there is extensive correspondence between the Chair, Edward Capps, and the Secretary of the Managing Committee, Edward D. Perry, concerning this choice of passage. Both men were distinguished classicists: Capps (1866-1950)­ was a professor of Classics at Princeton and one of the three original editors of the Loeb Classical Library, and Perry (1854-1938) taught Greek and Sanskrit at Columbia University for several decades.

The original guidelines from the architects of the building, John Van Pelt and W. Stuart Thompson, limited the length of the inscription to twenty letters; in addition, the architects insisted on placing two rosettes to the left and right of the inscription.

The discussions about the inscription began in late 1922, as soon as the School had secured funding from the Carnegie Corporation for the construction of the library. “The book plate of [John] Gennadius contains: ΚΤΑΣΘΕ ΒΙΒΛΙΑ ΨΥΧΗΣ ΦΑΡΜΑΚΑ [buy these books, which are the medicine of the soul]. I think you could get up something better for the frieze over the entrance” Capps teased Perry on October 29, 1922. [1]. To which Perry answered: “I have been thinking over the matter a good deal, but so far have hit upon nothing that pleases me. As he [John Van Pelt] says ‘an inscription some twenty letters long’ I feel a good deal crammed. I will send him, as a mere suggestion to work with, the following, taken with slight changes from Aeschylus’s Prometheus, line 460: ΣΥΝΘΕΣΕΙΣ ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΩΝ ΜΝΗΜΗ ΑΠΑΝΤΩΝ [“the combinations of letters, memory of all things”] which is thirty letters long” (AdmRec 311/3, folder 5, November 3, 1922).  

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The Transatlantic Voyage of a Greek Maiden

On March 31, 1947, Gisela Richter, Curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, sent a confidential letter to Carl W. Blegen, Professor of Classics at the University of Cincinnati and a distinguished archaeologist. Richter approached Blegen not only because they were friends but because, by having lived in Greece for many years, Blegen had formed strong connections with the local community at all levels. In addition, during World War II, Blegen had offered his services to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and, upon his return to Greece, he had served as Cultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy (1945-1946). Richter was writing Blegen about five pieces of Greek sculpture on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, including Kore 675 from the Acropolis. Richter refers to her as the “Maiden”.

The Maiden (Kore 675) from the Athenian Acropolis depicted on a Greek stamp of 1974.

“As I think I told you, we are naturally anxious to return to the Greeks what they have kindly lent us but very much hope that some arrangement can be made by which we may retain that one Maiden. The other pieces we are not even going to ask for, as there are obvious reasons in each case why the Greeks would not want to part with them, and asking for them would only weaken our case for the Maiden. The latter is one of many, and would hardly be missed in Athens, whereas here she would act as an ambassadress of goodwill, etc., etc.”

Richter sought Blegen’s advice about how to proceed with the request. “The loan to Greece ought to create goodwill for America, but naturally we don’t want to seem to cash in on it.” Richter was referring to President Truman’s announcement of March 1947, known as the Truman Doctrine, whereby the U.S. government granted $300 million in military and economic aid to Greece and $100 million to Turkey. “Would it be better to ask for the piece as a gift and perhaps compensate for it in some other way, or would a direct purchase be better? You who have been in Greece recently and know Greek politics will be able to advise us better than anyone else,” concluded Richter.

Blegen’s response exists only as a draft in his personal papers at the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or School hereafter). The mention of [Spyros] Skouras’s name in his response (not mentioned in Richter’s letter) suggests that Richter might have followed up with a second letter or a telegram or a note to Blegen’s wife, Elizabeth. To Richter’s disappointment, Blegen could not think “of any altogether satisfactory way of approach to recommend” (ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers, Box 13, folder 1, April 6, 1947). However, he did not reject the idea of having Spyros Skouras, the Greek-American movie mogul, mediate with the Greek authorities “since he has much influence and could apply some pressure. If he could propose it in the right quarters as an idea of his own, not inspired by you, there might be some hope that he could persuade them to make the offer as a spontaneous gesture of friendship.” Blegen thought of another alternative as well: “to ask Bert [Hodge] Hill to try his powers of persuasion.” Hill, Director of the American School from 1906 until 1926, was still considered to be social capital by many at the School. A gifted individual with access to the upper echelons of a small Athenian society, including the royal family, Hill “had his way with men” and could influence politicians. Blegen thought that it would have to be a political decision since the Archaeological Service would likely oppose to it.

There is no other correspondence between Blegen and Richter on this matter. We know that the Acropolis Maiden and the other pieces of sculpture were returned to Greece, so one assumes that either Richter did not press the issue further or that the mediators were unsuccessful. However, it is interesting to read an announcement in the Greek newspaper ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑ on August 11, 1948, titled “The Greek State will Sell Certain Antiquities. Superfluous in Museums,” which implies that the Ministry of Education might have considered briefly the idea of selling duplicate antiquities, in order to finance the reopening of Greek museums and the beautification of those archaeological sites that had suffered much during the War.

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Financing the Reconstruction of the Stoa of Attalos

1946 marked the re-opening of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School hereafter) in a country that had been devastated by war. In reading the official correspondence between the Greek Ministry of Education and the ASCSA, it becomes obvious that opening museums and the preservation of archaeological sites ranked highly on Greece’s list of priorities. With the launch of the Marshall Plan in 1947, Greece’s chances of success were also tightly connected with the development of tourism, and a large part of U.S. aid was streamlined in this direction.

“It is well known that travelers come to Greece chiefly for the purpose of seeing the ancient sites and visiting the museums of the country. In other words, the antiquities of Greece constitute a productive source of revenue capable of adding to the national treasury some 30 million dollars in the course of three years… No investment in the economy of Greece can match this for returns” wrote Oscar Broneer, Acting Director of the American School, on June 29th of 1948, in a petition of the School to the Industry Division of the Marshall plan for a $1,149,000 grant that would re-establish the Greek Archaeological Service.  

ASCSA AdmRec 804/6, folder 4

Carl W. Blegen, the excavator of many prehistoric sites in Greece who succeeded Broneer in the Directorship of the American School (1948-1949) and had served as Cultural Relations Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Athens in 1945-1946, also thought along the same lines. In an additional memorandum to the U.S. Ambassador in Athens, in August of 1948, Blegen underlined “the lamentable state of disrepair of the Greek museums,” which looked like empty shells (ASCSA AdmRec 804/6, folder 11). Blegen participated actively in meetings between the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) representatives and the Archaeological Service and helped with writing proposals. (The ECA was a U.S. government agency set up in 1948 to administer the Marshall Plan.) Since the American School could not receive direct funding from the Marshall plan, the only way to benefit from it was through collaboration with the Greek Government. The School hoped in this way to secure about $100,000 from the ECA through the Greek Government to supplement the cost of the construction of a museum that would store and display the growing number of finds from the Athenian Agora Excavations that had been accumulated since 1931. Before WW II, the School already had secured a grant of $150,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation to build a museum on the west side of the Agora.

The Stoa of Attalos today. ASCSA Agora Excavations. Photo: Craig Mauzy.

Forced by the War to abandon their plans for an Agora Museum, the Americans resumed work at the Athenian Agora in 1947, conducting excavations at the proposed site, in order to begin construction. The 5th and 4th century B.C. houses and industrial workshops that they found were considered too important to be covered up, and a new site for the museum had to be found. After considering every possible location in the Athenian Agora for the museum, the Americans, following Homer Thompson’s suggestion, came to the conclusion that “another and in many ways preferable alternative would be to restore the Stoa of Attalos and install in it the museum, workrooms, and offices…” (ASCSA Annual Report 1947-1948, p. 29).

The draft of a program agreement between the ECA and the Greek Ministries of Coordination and Education included figures for the preservation of 34 monuments, and the reconstruction of the Stoa of Attalos was first on the list.        

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Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire: De Waele’s Story

The jumping-off point for this story was an odd comment that Louis E. Lord made in his History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens about a Belgian archaeologist who was active at the School from 1927 until 1934. “Ferdinand Joseph Maria de Waele, Assistant in Archaeology for six years (1929-1934) was not reappointed. He had served well as an excavator, his work at the Asklepieion had been competent. But he never made a final report for publication, and the manner of his departure left behind him an odor of unsanctity highly offensive to the School” (Lord 1947, p. 246). Lord was referring to an accusation of smuggling antiquities made against de Waele. But was it true? A simple Google search showed that Ferdinand Joseph Maria De Waele (1896-1977), after leaving the American School, went on to have a distinguished career as a professor of archaeology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands and, later,  at the University of Ghent.

Ferdinand Joseph Maria de Waele, ca. 1927. Source: Public domain.
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