minoan art

Minoan peak sanctuaries

Exploring the ‘heritage values’ of a small village in Crete allowed the local people to play a role in protecting their nearby Minoan peak sanctuary.

Heritage management tends to focus on the fabric of a site but Dr Evangelos Kyriakidis believes that the development and conservation of ‘heritage values’ – what a site stands for – is equally important. And while a site may often be described in terms of economic value as a tourist attraction, or academic value as a research resource, its importance to locals is often overlooked.

The village of Gonies, where he ran his project, is very close to the peak sanctuaries – sacred places of the Minoan civilization. But despite their proximity, according to Kyriakidis ‘at the start of the project, local people didn’t see the site as valuable to them.’

Village set amoungst rolling hills in Crete
Village of Gonies: photo by Andreas Smaragdis

He wanted to see if a community-based project could empower the villagers to feel more connected to the site. The village itself had a strong identity and a reputation for stone masonry. During the project, the similarity between techniques of masonry and heritage conservation sparked a new enthusiasm: the villagers began to believe in the site’s importance and the need to protect it. Heritage management eventually became a regular part of village life.

‘They care about the site now. The project has activated members of the village and helped them to get involved,’ explains Kyriakidis.

Kyriakidis now works with two Kent alumni, Dr Aris Anagnostopoulos and Dr Celine Murphy, at the same village in Crete. It’s part of a larger project that Kyriakidis set up called The Heritage Management Organization, which promotes good practice in heritage management around the world. His inclusive approach to heritage management went on to influence proposals for sites such as Kerameikos and Brauron in Athens, and the management of sites such as Pompeii.

Dr Evangelos Kyriakidis is the programme director of our MA in Heritage Management in Athens.