I have found myself repeatedly returning to the boat harbor in Elefsina these days. In the cool of the evening, it provides a reassuring jogging path for my weary feet to tread. I jog past the sailing yachts moored across from the superstore JUMBO, and through the empty waterfront parks that are amazing not only for their artistry, but the fact that they are almost always empty. I run past the fishing pier where local fishermen have moored their boats and display their daily catch on icy displays. I dodge through the one or two locals negotiating their evening meal and on past the bus stop before cutting back to my place. This same area has become part of my daily routine as well. Now that the famous Greek morning sun is becoming my reliable friend I have decided to make the empty waterfront park at the yacht harbor my second home! It’s quietly beautiful here! But not all places in Elefsina give me respite from my daily desire for peace.
Street signs show us where the site lies.
Recently my classmate Faidon and I returned to the corner of Iera Odos and Atzhlespnoy street. For those who have walked past this corner without any awareness, this walled off corner of Elefsina is another archeological site. Here, behind 6-foot tall walls of concrete and corrugated tin, sits the unearthed road known as the Sacred Way. Unless you were led here by local archeologists, you would not know of this place, since it is a walled off overgrown empty lot that has very little value to the city of Elefsina. But values, as we all have learned, are relative.
So what is the value of this walled off corner of heritage to contemporary society? Despite the decisions by some to hide this piece of heritage behind walls some have found a way to give it value. On this day as I returned to the site with Faidon, we first stopped at the local grocery store where Faidon purchased plastic gloves and large trash bags. As we crawled through the small opening off the side street into the site I realized our chore before us. This site was strewn with trash of all kinds and it was up to the two of us to put our values in place!
I put down my backpack of books about heritage and began removing the remnants of value left behind by someone whose values are different than mine! It dawned on me as I spent the next hour picking up this trash that this was not a random trash dump! Someone or group had been visiting this site and since the local dumpsters are right across the street it was convenient to take the trash from the dumpsters and carry it into the walled off site. Here they could dig through the trash privately, taking what they could find to eat, to wear, to survive.
We completed our value reassessment and loaded our ten huge trash bags of contemporary values into the dumpsters across the street and headed back to class. As I walked back to class that day I was reminded once again what values are and how to attribute value to any place. While we sit in our classrooms and talk theory about values, there are those all around us with different ideas!
If the archeological value is treated as it is then contemporary society will give it value based on need. Who am I to judge what value this ignored corner of Elefsina provided to the people that ate here and found shelter here. Yes, they’re not my values, but I am not homeless, starving, or walking around in filthy clothes.
I returned to the site again today and I was not surprised to see all my hard work gone. It was littered again with the same trash that Faidon and I had removed just a few days ago! Once again I was reminded about how to value heritage!
Rae Rippy is Student Academic Officer for the HERMA class of 2015-16. With a background in business, journalism, and geology, he is interested in the preservation of heritage around the world, and the role of education as it pertains to that goal.