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October 25, 2001
Vol. 28, No. 12



The politics of interpreting Islam

UT scholars: World events challenge journalism ethics

Archer Fellows serve in Washington, D.C.

ExxonMobil gives $158,500

UT staffer gives $700,00 for scholarships

UT team seeks to save Ukraine historic site

Inaugural D. Harrington Symposium Nov. 2

Longhorn Halloween Oct. 28

Dr. Laura Flawn dies in collision

UT's bell ringer making music for nearly 50 years

Professor Jaime Delgado dies

UT grad students empowered in wake of Sept. 11 tragedy

UT researchers discover wood pulp replacement

UT engineers unlock defense body's protectve systems

New process detects cancer's ability to spread

Dr. Wood leads team in $80 million quake study

Undergrad biomedical engineering program created

FACTS brochures available

Faculty Council

News Briefs


Hearts of TX Campaign ends Oct. 31

UT book de-mystifies directing


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University team seeks to save historic site in Ukraine

By Robin Gerrow
College of Liberal Arts

UA little-known, but major, archaeological site just outside of Sevastopol, Ukraine, has been added to "The List of 100 Most Endangered Sites" alongside the Valley of the Kings in Luxor and the Great Wall of China.

On the coast of the Black Sea, in the southern part of Ukraine, lies the National Preserve of Tauric Chersonesos, a site that has been home to ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine cultures, as well as the location of historic battles in modern history. The list, released in October by the World Monuments Fund, designates sites that urgently need preservation and conservation.

close up of Chersonesos
In 1992, a University of Texas at Austin team was invited by Ukrainian authorities to carry out a joint project in the chora of Chersonesos. The project was the first by a foreign institution at a major Greek colony on the Black Sea and the first such project in newly independent and democratic Ukraine.

Chersonesos holds special significance for The University of Texas at Austin, as well. In 1992, a team from the Institute of Classical Archaeology (ICA), an Organized Research Unit within the College of Liberal Arts, was the first group of Western researchers invited to study the historical site in the newly independent country of Ukraine.

According to Dr. Joseph Coleman Carter, director of the ICA, several factors helped place Chersonesos on the endangered list.

"The Ukrainian economy is in a difficult transition to a free market," he said. "After the fall of communism, people there were understandably much more concerned with building hospitals and schools than spending money on preserving archeological sites.

"The real danger to the site is in lack of funding for preservation, and the threat of development without consideration for the area’s cultural monuments and natural beauty."

Another issue of concern is the effect of the forces of nature. The surrounding territory, or chora, is on a peninsula on the Black Sea and is experiencing severe coastal erosion, which has not been stemmed.

"There are still significant threats to the site," Carter said, "but the designation on the list gives the site more credibility with the government, making them more likely to maintain it. Having the site on the list also will open doors for us in finding funding to continue excavation and preservation."

The area was considered a closed city for many years, even after the end of the Cold War, because it is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Though the fleet still has a port there, its importance has diminished over the years, making the area more amenable to tourism, Carter said.

"The importance of Chersonesos and its chora can be seen in the number of civilizations that we have been able to find evidence of," he said. "We have an ancient farm from the Early Hellenistic period (300-200 B.C.), as well as remnants of Roman and Byzantine fortresses and evidence of battles of the Crimean War and World War II on one site in the territory. In fact, we have had to be very careful because we have come across live ordnance from World War II."

The area also holds religious importance to Ukraine. The recently reconstructed Volodymy (Vladimir) Cathedral was originally built in the 19th century on the site of a medieval Christian church. It is the site where a Ukrainian prince supposedly was baptized in 988, providing the entry point for Christianity into the Slavic world.

Chersonesos, largely because of its chora — is in danger of severe coastal erosion and urban encroachment.

The work done at Chersonesos is an international and interdisciplinary project. The core team of 45 people includes University of Texas at Austin students, in addition to archaeology graduate students from Kyiv Mogila Academy, the University of Kyiv and the University of Lecce in Italy. T hough there is a concentrated period of excavation and study during the summer months, the ICA maintains a permanent staff member and has researchers traveling to the site throughout the year.

"We’ve worked a little differently from many classical archeologists in that we also look at plant, animal and human remains," Carter said. By using this approach, the team has been able to make a thorough study of the rural area of Chersonesos, including crops, farmhouses and rural temples.

ICA also has been working with the university’s Center for Space Research and NASA on the Remote Sensing Project, using space imagery to map the site and monitor urban sprawl.

Ukrainian and Austin architects recently have teamed up to create a 20-year master plan for an archeological park for the area. "This is a natural starting point for tourists visiting the area, " Carter said. The proposed park includes the monuments of the ancient city, the museum and about 1,500 acres of countryside that has changed little since it was inhabited by the Greeks with a farmhouse and road intact.

ICA’s work is supported by government and private foundation grants and donations. Last year’s operating budget exceeded $1 million and was primarily funded by the Packard Humanities Institute.

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