There has been a long debate on the Thessaloniki railway network excavations and whether Thessaloniki’s Pompeii will be saved instead of being covered by the new metro network. Since the proceedings of the railway began, many findings came to light, such as 3,000 graves, 5,000 vessels, 1,500 pieces of jewelry, a basilica dating from the 5th century and a marble paved street among the findings of a large excavation made in an area of 28,000 sq.m.
A Greek “Pompeii”, a city with constant findings and continuous occupation phases from the 4th century BC until today, something that only few cities in the world have as a historical past, comes to light thanks to the long archaeological excavation for the needs of the city’s upcoming railway network.
The majority of the excavations is located in the historic center of Thessaloniki covering a large area of about 28,000 square meters, 17,000 of which relate to the subway stations. The metro project development and the archaeological excavations that followed, comprise a unique discovery of Thessaloniki’s historic past.
Aristotelis Mentzos, Professor of Byzantine Archaeology, describes the decision of the rescue project of these findings as a great victory. “Such finds exist in other Roman cities, but what they lack is duration of continuous use,” Mentzos told AFP.
The rescue excavation has brought to light new important information regarding Thessaloniki’s urban life between the fourth and nine centuries of the Christian era.
An interesting event titled, Both Metro and Ancient Finds, was also held in Thessaloniki, organized by the Cultural Department of SYRIZA EKM. The event was attended among others by Despoina Koutsoumba, Head of the association of Greek archaeologists, who said: “This was a central crossroads where the city’s central market and public buildings were located. The area has retained the same character today, it remains the heart of the city’s society.”
Archaeologists were shocked to hear that the state company supervising the underground rail project required the avenue and buildings to be relocated, describing their preservation as “technically unfeasible.”
After several efforts of the city’s local council and the university, the rail company finally backed down.
Now everybody accepts that there are several technically feasible solutions for the coexistence of the antiques and the Metro on Venizelos Street. The conditions are fit for the case to be re-examined by the Central Archaeological Council, to enable archaeologists of the General Secretariat of Culture to work with the Athens Metro and city agencies for the best possible solution.