Archaeology in Greek Higher Education

By Hamilakis, Yannis | Antiquity, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Archaeology in Greek Higher Education


Hamilakis, Yannis, Antiquity


Key-words: Greece, universities, training, curriculum, classical archaeology

The Greek past

The teaching of archaeology in higher education in Greece cannot be viewed in isolation from the broader realms of antiquity, archaeology and the past in modern Greek society and the context of Greek higher education. A growing body of literature has shown that archaeological antiquities have contributed substantially to the generation and perpetuation of a genealogical national myth upon which the modern nation-state of Greece was founded (e.g. Gourgouris 1996; Herzfeld 1982, 1987; Kitromilides 1989; Morris 1994; Skopetea 1988). This ideology of nationalism not only presented the nation-state as the ideal form of political organization for 19th-century Greece, but also presented the inhabitants of Greece as direct descendants of Socrates and Plato. Intellectuals and the emerging middle class merchants imported this western romantic ideology (so popular amongst the European middle-class of the time) into Greece. The 'Greek ideal' helped to unite the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual populations of the Greek peninsula against the Ottoman administration, in a battle which was seen as the continuation of the battle against oriental enemies such as the Persians. Antiquities were seen as the physical manifestations of the dreamt new topos, the landmarks of the new topography of Hellenism (cf. Gourgouris 1996; Leontis 1995). The monuments' materiality and link with the earth and territory provided the ontological basis upon which the national mythology of continuity was built. Since then antiquities have been venerated and occupy almost the position of icons (cf. Hamilakis and Yalouri 1999). The unique position of archaeological monuments in the national imagination means they have often been deployed as symbolic capital of the 'nation' and used as effective weapons in battles and negotiations in domestic and international arenas. These involve not only the state but also diverse interest groups with sometimes conflicting agendas (Hamilakis 1999b; Hamilakis & Yalouri 1996; 1999).

Greek education and archaeology

Given the importance of the past, it is paradoxical that archaeology (mostly a state-run affair both in terms of archaeological activity and in training and education) is not taught independently in autonomous departments in state universities in Greece. Archaeology together with History of Art deliberately forms a section within the Departments of History and Archaeology, which themselves are part (with Philology, Philosophy, Psychology and Pedagogy) of the broader Schools of Philosophy (=Arts and Humanities). There are no independent archaeology degrees, and instead all degrees are awarded by the Departments of History and Archaeology, and students can choose to specialise in archaeology. In addition to the four main Departments teaching archaeology (Universities of Athens, Thessaloniki, Ioannina and Crete), archaeology is taught as a supplementary subject with history (Ionian University), history and ethnology (University of Thrace) and Mediterranean studies (University of the Aegean). Finally, a new Department of History, Archaeology and Folklore has just been set up at the University of Thessaly. This structure results from tradition rather than planning, and from pedagogical philosophy which places emphasis on a broad, unified humanistic education.

The curriculum

The university structure and the administrative organisation of archaeological education results in the very broad range of the archaeology curriculum in Greece. Another factor is that the vast majority of graduates of the Departments of History and Archaeology (as with the other departments in the Philosophy School) become teachers in secondary education. Unemployment is one of the most severe problems that archaeologists face in Greece. The State archaeological service, hardly adequately staffed to deal with the enormous scale of archaeological activity, is one of the most exclusive and restricted employment sectors in Greece, admitting a handful of staff (only after a strict and anachronistic examination process; cf. …

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