Andros – the Sydney connection

The island where we’ve been staying has one of the most significant archaeological sites in Greece, and it turns out that the University of Sydney is playing a major role in its excavation.

Settlement at Zagora on the west coast goes back to the late 10th century BC, the Iron Age. Since 1967 the university’s Department of Archaeology has worked with Greek specialists to uncover a far richer history than had been imagined at a time formerly consider the Dark Ages. The site has revealed a well-populated, highly organised walled town.

Operations on Andros are now coordinated through the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens, founded in 1980 by former Sydney professor Alexander Cambitoglou. For Institute deputy director Stavros Paspalas, who lectured on the subject in Sydney last year, “no other single excavated site in the Greek world can rival the insights offered into the social organisation of a central Aegean settlement of the 8th century BC, preserving as it does a sacred area, domestic architecture, storage provisions for agricultural produce and fortification works, undisturbed by later occupation”.

The discoveries give the lie to what was a common mainland view of early island life as grim and wretched. Herodotus wrote of the ancient Andriots as serving the gods of “Poverty and Impotence”.

At present the site itself is not easily accessible to visitors, but the finds from it are housed in the excellent archaeological museum in the island’s capital, Hora.

A further dig will take place in October and November this year, and the university has appealed for volunteers to take part.

Oh to be a student again!


The Organisation of American States meets tomorrow, Friday, to discuss the British threat to Ecuador’s London embassy – a meeting opposed by the US, Canada and Trinidad & Tobago, but embraced by the remaining 23 nations.

As they deliberate, influential voices have come out in support of Julian Assange and of the firm stand taken by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa in granting him asylum.

The Argentinian Nobel Peace laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel has made a statement in Buenos Aires saying that Julian Assange is justified in fearing for his life and that Britain’s refusal to accept Ecuador’s decision on asylum is “alarming”.

Britain’s actions, he said, are “completely outside international law and unacceptable”. Ecuador’s decision had been taken out of concern for the life of Assange “who is being politically persecuted for having broadcast very serious information revealing criminal actions by the United States in Afghanistan nd Iran”.


In the US itself, filmmakers Michael Moore and Oliver Stone write in yesterday’s New York Times that freedom of speech is at stake in the issue. “If Mr. Assange is extradited to the United States,” they say, “the consequences will reverberate for years around the world. Mr. Assange is not an American citizen, and none of his actions have taken place on American soil. If the United States can prosecute a journalist in these circumstances, the governments of Russia or China could, by the same logic, demand that foreign reporters anywhere on earth be extradited for violating their laws.” 

You can read the full statement at

Meanwhile Seumas Milne in The Guardian has come out firmly against the demonisation of Assange in the British media.Can anyone seriously believe,” he writes, “that the dispute would have gone global, or that the British government would have made its asinine threat to suspend the Ecuadorean embassy’s diplomatic status and enter it by force, or that scores of police would have surrounded the building, swarming up and down the fire escape and guarding every window, if it was all about one man wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations in Stockholm?”

Milne pulls no punches in going against the paper’s own editorial line: The Guardian has gone so far in recent leaders as to say that Assange has no right to claim asylum. But at least they’ve published his counter-blast.

The column in full is at


The New York Times the other day carried an unintentionally amusing piece by “Russia analyst” Vadim Nikitin trying to stem the tsunami of international support for Pussy Riot after the three band members’ show trial in Moscow.

Pussy Riot’s fans in the West,” he pontificated, “need to understand that their heroes’ dissent will not stop at Putin; neither will it stop if and when Russia becomes a ‘normal’ liberal democracy. Because what Pussy Riot wants is something that is equally terrifying, provocative and threatening to the established order in both Russia and the West (and has been from time immemorial): freedom from patriarchy, capitalism, religion, conventional morality, inequality and the entire corporate state system.”

It doesn’t seem to have dawned on the blustering Mr Nikitin that this is precisely what most of us love about them.

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