The Griffin Warrior
My typical Sunday morning. Browsing through the news. Through commentaries on Turkey, on Greece, on Europe, on the United States, on the world. Trying to absorb and focus. Focus and evaluate. Evaluate and comment.
The 23rd World Energy Congress has started here, in Istanbul. The whole city will be choked by traffic restrictions for four days. All eyes will be on Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The Turks want to talk with the Russian leader about Turkish Stream. The rest of the world worries about his next move in Syria. And what is he planning again by moving his Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to right next door to Poland and Lithuania?
Greece is struggling once again with its creditors. This time it is serious. The IMF is embroiled in a fight with the Europeans – read – the Germans. It became evident last week in the fund’s fall meeting in Washington.
The Germans do not want to change anything before their elections. Angela Merkel’s popularity is shrinking. The IMF does not want to put any money into the Greek program anymore because they think the program is not sustainable without a restructuring of the Greek debt. Even America’s Jack Lew could not convince the Germans last week that the restructuring of the Greek debt is necessary. The Germans are adamant: The Greeks have to proceed with reforms with more vigor. The Greek government is tense. Its popularity is crumbling. Their problem is also existential. With the party congress coming up shortly, the “first leftist-led government in Greece” has a difficult task in persuading the Greeks that their decreasing income is part of a socially sensitive, long-term plan.
Die-hard Greek communists believe that the leftist Syriza government was allowed to govern “by the capitalists” to do “the dirty job” against the working class. If they cannot manage, “they” will be replaced by other willing political servants. Tomorrow’s (today’s) Eurogroup is crucial. If Europeans do not release the instalment of 2.8 billion, the government will have an impossible task trying to continue its domestic policies. Greeks are getting angrier, and there is already talk of an early election.
But all eyes are really on the infotainment saga of the American elections. After Donald Trump’s useful advice as “a star” on how to seduce married women, some European commentators are asking if his campaign is over. But the American presidential elections are becoming increasingly surreal. And if a revealing video can knock off Trump, what about WikiLeaks’ latest trove of Hillary Clinton’s emails from 2014?
Trying to explain that she is not out of touch with middle-class Americans, she says: “Obviously, I’m kind of far removed because of the life I’ve lived and the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy, but I haven’t forgotten it.” So, let’s be a little patient and more cautious about finishing off Trump’s campaign.
So, what was it that caught my eye? None of the above. And, strictly speaking, it was not even a news story. At least not a story related to our times. But it was new and dramatic nonetheless.
It was the striking image of a handsome young warrior with long black hair whose face appeared in the culture sections of world media last week. He was buried 3,000 years ago in a shallow but intact grave near the Mycenaean palace of the Homeric King Nestor in Pylos, southern Peloponnese, Greece. His face was reconstructed by Lynne Schepartz and Tobias Houlton from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, by using his skull and other recent data collected. The face was presented at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens by the two American archaeologists, Jack L. Davis and Sharon R. Stocker, who had discovered the grave last spring after working in the area for 25 years. The grave was intact and that made the discovery one of the rarest in recent times. He was buried in full gear with all his gold and ivory offerings, including his sword, dagger and 50 carved seal stones from Minoan Crete. He also had an ivory plaque carved with a griffin which made the international media invent a name for him: “the Griffin Warrior.”
You may argue that that there were much more striking images this week that shocked us, made us furious, scared us and horrified us. You are right. But I would argue that the image of the Griffin Warrior can also remind us that archaeology can enrich our self-awareness and see ourselves and our leaders in a wider historical continuum.