Decades ago, grave robbers pillaged the Mycenaean-era cemetery on the low hill east of the village  in Aidonia in the region of Corinthia, digging tunnels, boring into the beehive graves and sending their loot – seal stones and gold rings – abroad. Indeed, antiquities thieves have appeared in Aidonia during periods when there were no excavations being carried out. A rescue dig was carried out in 2002 after authorities were alerted to the presence of suspected looters, as was the case in 2007 and 2011.  The identities of the looters have never been discovered, but their activities saw the locals branded as antiquities thieves. Now, the locals are working together with archaeologists to counter that view.

The land behind Giorgos Costopoulos's home is strewn with antiquities. He is one of several residents at Aidonia helping a team of archaeologists that has been conducting systematic research for the past two years in the area, bringing new treasures to light. The head of the Aidonia excavation, Dr Dinos Kissas, an assistant professor of classical antiquity at the University of Graz in Austria, tells Kathimerini: 

"The presence of the archaeological service prevents any illegal excavation attempts. Antiquities thieves tend not to go to places that are getting a lot of attention and where the local population is also on alert."

Aidonia was listed as a protected archaeological area in 1995 and when Kissas became Corinthia's ephorate for classical antiquities in 2007, he reached out to the locals with the help of Mayor Kalantzis, holding public discussions and briefings at city hall.

"These presentations allowed the people to understand how important it was to protect the area. The area gets poorer when its wealth is taken abroad."

The aim of his initiative was to build trust with the locals and to convince them that the archaeological service's presence is about protecting and showcasing the finds, not taking them away. The Ministry of Culture in 2016 approved a five-year research program header by Kissas and with Shelton's cooperation to excavate, protect and showcase the archaeological site of Aidonia. The multidisciplinary team includes bio-archaeologists, geo-archaeologists and conservers.

Kalantzis has given up a piece of his land so that it can be excavated. It was there that a beehive tomb – one of the biggest found in the area – from the early Mycenaean period (circa 1650-1400 BC) was fully excavated this summer and found intact, containing bronze knives, seal stones, jewelry and vessels, among other artifacts.

For the full story (and there is much more!) over at Ekathimerini.