ΠΑΡΟΥΣΙΑΣΗ ΣΤΟ CHRISTCHURCH COLLEGE THΣ ΟΞΦΟΡΔΗΣ ΤΗΣ ΚΟΙΝΗΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΟ-ΑΓΓΛΙΚΗΣ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΗΣ ΣΤΟΝ «ΛΑΒΥΡΙΝΘΟ».
Την Πέμπτη 15/10/2009, έγινε στο Πανεπιστήμιο της Οξφόρδης και συγκεκριμένα σε αίθουσα του Christchurch College η παρουσίαση των αποτελεσμάτων της έρευνας που είχε γίνει τον Ιούλιο στον «Λαβύρινθο» της Μεσαράς, στην Κρήτη.
Την αποστολή, είχε διοργανώσει το τμήμα Γεωγραφίας και Περιβάλλοντος του Πανεπιστημίου υπο τον Nicholas Howarth. Aπο Ελληνικής πλευράς συμμετείχαν τα μέλη της ΕΣΕ: Νίκος Λελούδας, Ελίζα Χατζηχαραλάμπους και Δημήτρης Χατζηλιάδης.
Στην παρουσίαση της 15/10 συμμετείχαν τα μέλη της ΕΣΕ: Νίκος Λελούδας, Απόστολος Λελούδας και Ελίζα Χατζηχαραλάμπους.
Και τις δύο φορές -αποστολή και παρουσίαση- συμμετείχε και ο Ελβετός «ειδικός» επι του Λαβυρίνθου: Thomas Waldman.
Mερικές φωτογραφίες απο την παρουσίαση, το επίσημο δείπνο (στην τραπεζαρία του Κολλεγίου που γυρίζονται όλες οι ταινίες Ηarry Potter !), καθώς και απο τμήμα υπόγειου ποταμού που κυλάει κάτω απο το κέντρο της πόλης και εγκιβωτίστηκε την Βικτωριανή εποχή !
Κείμενο – Φωτογραφίες (Νίκος Λελούδας).
Ακολουθεί η ανακοίνωση τύπου από την Παρουσίαση για το Λαβύρινθο στην Οξφόρδη.
MEDIA RELEASE 15 October, 2009
NEW LIGHT SHED ON MYTHICAL LABYRINTH
A joint Oxford University and Hellenic Speleological Society Expedition today launched their project website, a short film and preliminary findings into an investigation of the competing claims to the location of the mythical Cretan Labyrinth. The expedition was funded and supported by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), The Oxford University Expeditions Council and Christ Church College, Oxford.
Speaking at the launch of the project’s results at Christ Church, Oxford geography graduate and team leader Nicholas Howarth described how the expedition will hopefully stimulate greater interest in uncloaking the mystery of the Labyrinth.
“Everyone knows of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Ariandne and her thread and the Labyrinth of King Minos. What is less well known, is that there are three competing theories behind the location of the Labyrinth on Crete: The Palace at Knossos, the Skotino Cave, and the Labyrinthos cave near Gortyn.
A Labyrinth lost in the shadow of Knossos
“Knossos is the second most visited archaeological site in Greece after the Acropolis in Athens. Despite the economic downturn, in 2008 over 610,664 people visited the site bringing in millions of Euros. People come not just to see the controversial ruins excavated and reconstructed by Arthur Evans from 1900 to 1935, but also to seek a connection to the mythical past of the Age of Heroes. It is a shame that almost all visitors to Knossos have never heard of these other possible ‘sites’ for the mythical Labyrinth.
In the words of Arthur Evans himself, “There can be little remaining doubt that this huge building, with its maze of corridors and tortuous passageways, its medley of small chambers, its long succession of magazines with their blind endings, was in fact the Labyrinth of later tradition which supplied a local habitation for the Minotaur of grizzly fame.
But Evan’s has been criticised for turning the site into something of an art-deco wonderland. He used reinforced concrete to create faux wooden beams, commissioned a Swiss artist to reconstruct the palace frescos with vivid colour and detail and reconstructed buildings in such a way it is hard for even experts at first glance to say which are real and imagined.
“Evan’s hypothesis that the palace of Knossos is also the Labyrinth should be treated more sceptically,” Mr Howarth said. “The fact that this idea prevails so strongly in the popular imagination seems more to do with our romantic yearning to believe in the stories of the past, coupled with the power of Evan’s personality and privileged position in the academy as an Oxford don, than with archaeological or historical fact.
Investigation of the competing labyrinth theories Members of the Hellenic Speleological Society, including army brigadier Demetris Hadjiliades, geologist Eliza Chatzicharalampous and a leading author on the caves of Greece, Nikos Leloudas teamed with the Swiss Labyrinth expert Thomas M. Waldmannn, to guide the Oxford students through two cave systems, which have strong links to the Labyrinth myth.
“While we visited the sacred temple-cave at Skotino, our attention was focused on the less known Labyrinthos Cave system near Gortyn,” Mr Leloudas said.
“The Labyrinthos Cave extends for over two miles of man-made underground passageways. It is also of great pride for the community around Mires. However during World War II it was used to store ammunition by the Nazis. The artillery was tragically detonated during their withdrawal in 1945, so not to fall into the resistance’s hands, damaging the entrance to the caves. Since then this site which has a fantastic history, and was once more visited than Knossos, faded into obscurity.
Mr Leloudas said that during the expedition, the team gathered useful information to raise the profile of the site and even helped prevent what could have been a catastrophe by exposing an active illegal excavation involving a plan to use dynamite to destroy part of the cave in the search for treasure.
“After discovering the tools of the intruders, we were able to notify the mayor of the municipality and the archaeological police came straight away to investigate and confiscated the criminals’ equipment. Thankfully the thieves were not in the Labyrinth when we made the discovery and we were able to prevent another tragedy involving explosions in the Labyrinth from occurring,” he added.
Reception by the local community
The Swiss Labyrinth expert, Mr Thomas M. Waldmann has been in the cave over 40 times over the last 10 years and has been systemically studying the site and posting the results on his website www.labyrinthos.ch. He said that the Oxford University Expedition was a big boost to his efforts.
Mr Waldmann said that over the last 10 years, it has not always been easy to get the attention the site deserves. “However, even before their arrival the Oxford team was attracting front page coverage of their expedition in the Greek media.
He said that doors were opened wide by the local community and the team was received with warm hospitality.
“The small village of Kastelli directly beneath the entrance to the Labyrinth put on a civic feast for the expedition team in the church hall. It was fantastic to have such local support. The whole village came out to share their views on the future of the site and hear what we thought.
“We were particularly excited and honoured to be given open access to the municipality’s files on the Labyrinth going back 40 years. These show that there have been several restoration attempts and offers of assistance from international governments. But so far a lack of coordination and resources has undermined completion of this work.
“It seems that many people in the local community would like to see the site restored so it can be used for tourism. However, people are sceptical that anything will be done after so many have come through making promises with various projects. However they always hopeful and said they would like to work with the national government on a plan to the European Union to restore, protect and display the Labyrinth once more to the world.
The mystery of the labyrinthine stonework
Mr Waldmann said that one of the most interesting mysteries of the Labyrinthos Cave, which is thought to be the hollow shell of an ancient quarry, was the huge piles of seemingly dry-fitted stone work throughout the cave system.
“The first time you enter the quarry-cave system, these stone walls and the multiple passageways give the impression of a labyrinth. However, after you have been inside several times, you recognize the Labyrinthos Cave is not a labyrinth, neither a classic one with mostly 7 windings leading to the centre, without crossings, nor a maze. It is most likely a Roman quarry and the stones are left over waste. In some places they have been carefully piled up, but in other places they are a loose jumble.
“However, until an experienced archaeological team can go into the cave and investigate this in more detail, we can only speculate.
World War Two Ammunition
Brigadier Hadjiliades said that the Labyrinth was still very dangerous because of unexploded World War Two ammunition, mostly anti-aircraft shells used by the Germans to shoot down British and other allied planes.
“Greece still suffers the scars of many past conflicts,” the brigadier said. “It will be difficult to get the attention of the de-mining force from other operations particularly in the north of Greece.
“The plan to use dynamite to blow through a section of the Labyrinth wall in the search for a hidden room was very professional. There are probably only a few hundred people in Greece with the expertise to do this. Some people think this site might hide hidden treasure. This highlights why it should be protected.
Protecting the Labyrinth
Eliza Chatzicharalampous said that she was worried that the thieves would try to come back and finish their plan to dynamite the back half of the Labyrinth as there was no way yet to regulate access to the site.
“We suggested to Mayor Armoutakis that a gate be placed at the entrance to the Labyrinth to control access to the site. We think the illegal excavations were probably motivated by a documentary around 10 years ago, which suggested there was a secret chamber behind the so-called ‘Trapeza Room’. In this room visitors have been recording their names for over 600 years. This includes Venetians, Ottomans, French, English and of course Greeks.
“After drilling dozens of holes several metres into the solid wall of the Labyrinth, it looks like their plan was based on a false hypothesis. When in the Labyrinth we discovered the remnants of their work including diamond drills, picks and spades, lamps and power cables. But we did not find their power generator,” she added.
“It was also surprising to see dozens of threads stretched across the floor of the labyrinth. People obviously have been coming in here recreating the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur by unwinding a clew of thread to find their way back through the passageways.
“In Greek, we have a saying that ‘the fear of a place keeps it safe’. This may be all that protects the site for now, as the authorities said they are worried that they might trap someone inside if they seal the entrance with a locked gate.
Finding the third ‘lost’ Labyrinth cave
While they were in the area, the Expedition Team also ‘rediscovered’ a lost third Labyrinth cave after being shown its location beneath a fig tree by a local shepherd.
Mr Howarth said, “There are three separate quarry-caves associated with the site we know of. The first is the extensive honeycomb network extending kilometres under the ground which was used by the Germans. The second is an easily accessed series of chambers extending 48 metres into the south side of hill, which can be visited by tourists. The third, is another small but very well concealed quarry-cave on the southern slope.
“After a local shepherd approached us at the site and we explained that there was a third cave that no-one had been able to locate for many years, we were very excited to have him lead us straight up the steep slope of the hill, through the brambles to a cave entrance obscured by a large fig tree.
“Climbing down into the cool darkness of this cave, while listening to the old shepherd’s stories of the war, was one of the highlights of the expedition.
The true Labyrinth
Mr Howarth said that the question at the heart of the expedition was to investigate the Cretan Labyrinth and explore how it has changed over time and space, physically and in our imagination.
“If we look at the archaeological facts, it is extremely difficult to say that a Labyrinth ever existed – at Knossos, Skotino, or near Gortyn. For the pure scientist, the myths are only stories, and should never be taken at face-value. However, taking a different view, I think all science is first born in the imagination and our idea of the Labyrinth has evolved over time. This is what lies behind Arthur Evan’s Knossos, or Paul Faure’s Skotino Cave, or the Venetian and Byzantine pre-occupation with the Labyrinthos Cave as the location of the ‘true’ Labyrinth.
“I think that each site has its claim to the mystery of the Labyrinth, but in the end there are questions that neither archaeology nor mythology can ever completely hope to answer.
“However, a norm of popular opinion exists so that only Knossos is recognised as the site of the mythical Labyrinth. This view needs to be challenged.
“As a student project, we are limited in what we can contribute to challenging the dominant perception of Knossos as the Labyrinth. However, being brought up in Australia with Greek heritage on one side and British on the other, I feel passionately about the need to understand this famous myth in its proper context,” Mr Howarth said.
“This is not only about restoring the heritage of the Greeks, this is a story of universal importance and, as such, people of all nationalities will continue to have an interest. This will involve research, archaeology, removal of the ammunition, civil engineering and importantly, funding. We hope that in a small way, by sparking greater interest in the site, our work will help with this effort.
Over the next year, team members will write and hope to publish articles in their fields related to the expedition’s goals culminating in the possibility of a book which could be used to guide readers though the maze of the story of the Labyrinth. Thomas M. Waldmann and the Greek Team will also continue field studies of the Labyrinthos Cave.
“We will be presenting a formal report to the Royal Geographical Society and hope this will stimulate some interest from professional documentary producers such as the BBC or Discovery Channel.
“We would also like to do some fundraising to help contribute to a modern civil engineering and safety assessment to be carried out as a first step to increasing the site’s accessibility.
“This is such a fantastic story we would love to see it brought to a bigger audience.
For further information please visit: www.zestcambridge.co.uk/labyrinthlost/
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