Friday, 27 September 2013

Eyes on Chersonesos - UNESCO World Heritage Site

the eyes of the Theotokos from the ancent temple at Chersonesos,
possibly the eyes that saw King and Sovereign Volodymyr of Rus',
now in Chersonesos Museum
amk 2013
The Ancient city of Chersonesos, located near the Crimean port city of Sevastopol on Ukraine's Black Sea coast has been declared a UNCESCO World Heritage Site!  This very important place in world history marks the seventh to fifth centuries BC ancient meeting of Greeks and indigenous peoples, and how their relationship led to Chersonesos becoming the birthplace of democracy in this part of the world.  Few places on earth have had such a long and vital history!

This summer's Black Sea Cruise vacation (2013) included a very important stop in Chersonesus. Landing at the Crimean (Greek for peninsula) port city of Sevastopol was intriguing, but then the absolutely unexpected splendor of the archeological ruins protected at the National Preserve of Tauric Chersonesos site was overwhelming. Thankfully for admirers of history's wisdom, the President of Ukraine in 1993 declared the site a Preserve, given the status of a national institution of culture. Since that time, important scholarly teams involving archeologists, historians and specialists of related fields have worked to establish an archeological park, enlisting non-profit and non-governmental organizations abroad. The significance of this site has met an appreciative international audience.
Chersonesos city, amk2013

Ancient indigenous cultures and warring tribes including the impressive Taurians, Cimmerians, and Scythians lived in this highly desired locations. Greek colonists from Miletus in the 7th to 5th centuries BC established an independent, self-governed city state which variously enslaved, employed and eventually included these peoples as participants in the popular assembly of free peoples who would decide on law, wars, peace and governance together.  For two thousand years Chersonesos was the major political, economic and cultural centre of this northern Black Sea region, enduring political and economic upsurges and threats including fascinating times of Roman and Byzantine Empire influence.  Ancient and modern time looting, and construction related sprawl of modern city-growth, including illegal agricultural activity are a threat to the site.  In June 2013 UNESCO finally included the Chersonesos site on the list of World Heritage Sites because of its outstanding universal value. With this international focus, the Ukrainian authorities are committed toward strengthened heritage management and preservation.  The first foreign teams to be given access to conduct research at this site (1990's) from The Institute of Classical Archeology at the University of Texas contributed to this sea change with their amazing academic journey through the excavations and finds in Chersonesos.

The Texas led research team spokespeople indicate the project includes an offer to the Government of Ukraine of a long term project, to set up a world class archeological park on the territory of Chersonesos. A number of US private non-profit foundations and other generous supporters have already contributed to the archeological excavations, but issues such as coastal erosion and the important infrastructure for international tourism require priority attention and financial support. And Ukraine's Minister of Culture will urgently need to protect the Ukrainian state owned property from attempts by the Russian Orthodox Church to seize and appropriate the site.

Incidentally, the one hryvnia banknote has an image of Chersonesos on the reverse side!

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