Greece's archaeological service budget was reduced by 35 per cent, to 12 million euros ($16 million) in 2011 and will be cut further this year.
Credit: Fayez Nureldine

Greek archaeologists appealed to Europeans to help protect the embattled nation’s cultural patrimony during a time of austerity.

According to Bloomberg, the Culture and Tourism Ministry’s archaeological service budget was reduced by 35 per cent, to 12 million euros ($16 million) in 2011. This year it will be cut further, according to the Association of Greek Archaeologists who have campaigning to defend Greece's historical sites.

The Association, which issued a statement Wednesday, said that the economic crisis in Greece is putting antiquities under threat by looters and by a lack of upkeep as budgets are slashed.

"Our cultural heritage is not for sale," Despina Koutsoumba, the head of the Greek Archaeologists' Association, was quoted by Reuters as saying. "We don't want markets to rule over our cultural heritage, our history and our democracy."

Koutsoumba and other archaeologists are also attempting to start a campaign in which people hold up signs in front of Greek statues in museums around the world with Greek antiquities stating their support, said Reuters.

The campaign is hoping to reverse the tough cutbacks that Greece's cultural sector has faced and draw attention to the issue by appealing to history and art lovers worldwide.

Yet, with budget cuts and shrinking wages, art and antiquity theft in Greece has skyrocketed.

In January, three works of art, including one by Pablo Picasso and another by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, were stolen from the National Gallery in Athens.

Just over a month later, masked men carrying weapons looted a museum in Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, stealing numerous ancient artifacts.

“They are unpaid for months, and that is a great problem,”  Maria Tzagkaraki, a former museum guard who lost her job recently told PRI. “I’m waiting for more thieves in the museums, but they don’t care.”

The video below shows how archaelogists have reacted to Greek culture under threat:

Greek Culture Under Threat
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