The FoPA have been working hard for the protection and valorisation of the ancient quarries of Paros, mobilising and supporting all relevant stakeholders. We now present the first balance sheet a year after the workshop we organised in November 2019 in Paros on the future of the quarries.
The ancient quarries at Marathi have been in a deplorable state for a long time, neglected and inaccessible – a source of constant disappointment for thousands of visitors to Paros. Moreover, the use of explosives in the nearby modern quarries poses a threat to the stability of the ancient underground galleries.
Against this background, the FoPA sought to mobilise the local stakeholders and launch an initiative for the rescue, protection and promotion of the monument of the ancient underground quarries and the broader archaeological area.
On 16 November 2019, the FoPA organised a workshop bringing together local associations, the Municipality of Paros, representatives of the Ministry of Culture (Cyclades Ephorate) and high-level guest speakers. It laid the foundations for all relevant parties to work in partnership towards the protection and valorisation of the ancient quarries.
The workshop concluded with an initial action plan to help establish a locally-led participatory process and create the preconditions for a long-term solution. A year after this event, we can take stock of the situation and draw the first balance sheet against this action plan.
On the “plus” side:
- The preparatory stage of the digital mapping of the galleries was carried out by a team of the University of the Aegean in September 2020 with the support of the FoPA. Moreover, the Municipality has made provision in its 2020 budget for the main phase of the digital mapping.
- The participation of Paros as a case study has been secured in the European programme “Underground for Value“ with the active intermediation of the FoPA. The Municipality has agreed to act as “host institution”. Expert visits and stakeholder exchanges have started (online due to the Covid situation).
Falling between “plus” and “minus”:
- The FoPA actively support the undertaking of a geophysical survey to locate all galleries in the archaeological site. They encourage a detailed technical proposal by specialists in this field and submitted it to the Cyclades Ephorate in August 2020 for their consent, which however is still outstanding.
- It is understood that the Cyclades Ephorate has prepared the dossier for the compulsory purchase of the main part of the archaeological site at Marathi, but this has not yet been processed for a crucial decision by the Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council.
- The Municipality has set up a Coordinating Committee, with membership drawn from the main stakeholders, to steer the implementation of this action plan, but this has met only once (in March 2020). Much of the coordination and support effort is made largely informally by “volunteers” from the FoPA, the IAPK and the Municipality.
On the “minus” side:
- The Ministry of Culture has not yet commissioned the monitoring and independent report on the stability and safety of the ancient galleries. However, some preliminary discussions have taken place, citing budgetary constraints.
- The collection of archival material and documentation has not been launched. It is necessary for one organisation, such as the IAPK, to assume the lead role and proceed with other stakeholders’ agreement and support, as soon as the Covid situation allows.
It has been a year of trying to make a new start through practical actions, in a collaborative spirit but difficult conditions due to Covid and multiple financial and institutional constraints. The FoPA have helped on many fronts, but so far we’ve achieved, at best, mixed results. It is now the right time to draw lessons on what works and what doesn’t, and take some decisive steps, towards a shared vision for the creation of an archaeological park that will showcase the monument of the ancient galleries, the incomparable story of Paros marble and its extraction, and its wider cultural value around the world.