(HCS)--A storm of scholarly indignation and protest exploded recently over an article appearing in the Archaeology magazine (Matthew Brunwasser, "Letter from Macedonia: Owning Alexander," Archaeology, Volume 62 Number 1, January/February 2009), a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). In this piece, author Brunwasser detailed efforts of a Skopjan archaeologist, Viktor Lilcic, to find connections in his new country to Alexander the Great and ancient Macedonia. For an extract of Brunwasser's piece, visit the periodical's website at the URL http://www.archaeology.org/0901/abstracts/letter.html .
Dr. Stephen G. Miller (Emeritus, University of California at Berkeley), strongly objected to the article and sent a detailed rebuttal to the editor. In it, he sharply rebuffed Brunwasser's opinions: "While Mr. Brunwasser’s reporting of the archaeological work in Paionia is welcome, his adoption and promotion of the modern political stance of its people about the use of the name Macedonia is not only unwelcome, it is a disservice to the readers of Archaeology who are, I imagine, interested in historic fact. But then, the decision to propagate this historical nonsense by Archaeology – a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America - is a disservice to its own reputation." Miller's fact-filled, strong stance was not printed by Archaeology, contrary to custom among all scholarly journals and periodicals. Refusal to print the letter drew widespread disapproval from the academic community, many of whose members have been keenly aware of the "name dispute" between Greece and FYROM, and the unflagging efforts of Skopjans to usurp Greek history for political goals. One internationally known Classicist stated several years ago that she wished that she had had enough time to take up the standard of denying false FYROMian claims to settle the issue once and for all.
An independent group of scholars banded together to refute the revisionist claims. They developed and launched a website to facilitate participation by other faculty worldwide: "Macedonia Evidence. Searching for Historic Truth." (http://macedonia-evidence.org/) In explaining their efforts, the principals stated that
Classical Scholars from around the world, well known for their expertise in the history of Greece, are presenting, examining, and discussing the historical evidence concerning Alexander the Great and his Macedonian context.
This ad hoc group is completely independent of any public or private organization of any political nature, and its interest is solely in the presentation of historic fact. The group realizes that its work may come to be used by political entities, but any such use is totally unauthorized.
The first few scholars were motivated by the article in the Archaeology magazine, and the letter Stephen G. Miller, Ph.D sent in response, which Archaeology did not publish.
Since then, the list of scholars that have examined the evidence has been growing and 248 scholars have undersigned the letter to President Barack Obama.
A number of organizations and individuals helped spread Miller's response via Internet, among them the Pan-Macedonian Association of the U.S. (http://www.panmacedonian.info/scholarsmacedoniaevidence.htm) and Hellenic Communication Service ("Berkeley Professor Rebuts FYROMian Claims in Periodical," Hellenic Communication Service, http://www.helleniccomserve.com/berkeleyprofrebutsfyrom.html [20 March 2009]).
Within a short time, Miller's Letter to the Editor became a petition circulated worldwide. Support came from scholars and scientists in a wide range of academic disciplines whose signatures and statements carry authority in the academic world. Art historians, as well as classicists, historians, archaeologists, mediaevalists, byzantinists, epigraphers, anthropologists, and philosophers all signed the document.
Their institutions span two continents and cover dozens of countries, from Scandinavia south to the Middle East, and west to Canda and the U.S. The names read like a list of "Who's Who" among researchers of classical antiquity. Many of them represent top universities and are famous world-wide for their expertise. On May 18, the protest petition was forwarded to U.S. President Obama, which began as follows:
We, the undersigned scholars of Graeco-Roman antiquity, respectfully request that you intervene to clean up some of the historical debris left in southeast Europe by the previous U.S. administration.
On November 4, 2004, two days after the re-election of President George W. Bush, his administration unilaterally recognized the “Republic of Macedonia.” This action not only abrogated geographic and historic fact, but it also has unleashed a dangerous epidemic of historical revisionism, of which the most obvious symptom is the misappropriation by the government in Skopje of the most famous of Macedonians, Alexander the Great.
We believe that this silliness has gone too far, and that the U.S.A. has no business in supporting the subversion of history.
To read the complete letter, visit the URL http://macedonia-evidence.org/obama-letter.html. Miller and other scholars included ancillary documentation, which is presented at http://macedonia-evidence.org/documentation.html. According to Randall Colaizzi and Jana Schueller, apparent organizers of the movement's website, the number of scholars signing the petition continues to grow daily, with several online addenda already appended to the original list.
Reactions among other circles to the website and petition vary. According to Professor Nina Gatzoulis, President of the Pan-Macedonian Association of the U.S., members of the "Pammakedoniki" are gratified that the academic community has taken a firm public position on the issue. Her organization has worked tirelessly for years to combat the misinformation put forth by Skopjans. Interestingly enough, some aspects of the rebuttal by Miller are in accord with Skopjan blogs. On one site (http://arheoblog.blogspot.com/ [accessed 29 May 2009]) maintained by archaeologist Vasilka Dimitrovska, visitors read:
I’ll be damned, but this Letter from Macedonia [edd: by Brunwasser] should have never been published, especially not in a popular journal like Archaeology Magazine. I found a lot of reactions and comments about it, some aggressive, others scientifically based. But the good point of this letter is the real absurdity of the archaeological situation in Macedonia in terms of the ties between archaeology and politics. For now I would not give any comment, except the following:
In the Republic of Macedonia there are more than 400 other archaeologists (80% of them unemployed), with the own opinions which do not reach the public, because only two or three persons give interviews and make statements on behalf of all Macedonian archaeologists. That makes us even more incompetent than we really are, because the truth is that Macedonian archaeology is currently like a crystal shoe. Or to be more precise, a crystal high heel. And an antique one, on top.
At the moment, I am ashamed to be a Macedonian archaeologist. I will go find a place to hide , to cover my head and throw away my degree in archaeology.