Friday, August 08, 2008

Mapping the 2007 Fires of Eleia

Last summer, a devastating series of fires ravaged the Greek countryside turning the province of Eleia into a lunar landscape. It made international news with unfortunate human fatalities. Much of the coverage focused on the ancient site of Olympia, which was saved. Listen to a 5-min. NPR interview by Jack Davis, director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, August 28, 2007 ("Greece Fires Menace Archaeological Ruins"). The professor's house mentioned is no other that the infamous base of the Morea Project, Frederick Cooper's house in Neohori.

In the interim year, I've been hoping to map the extents of the damage. At some point, I even contemplated applying for grants to document the damage. As part of my Eleia mapping project (see earlier postings), I've digitized NASA’s satellite image of the affected area circulated through BBC and other news agencies. Combined with my GIS map of the region's villages, and settlements, one can specifically trace which sites were physically affected. I haven't seen any such map already, so I'm excited to make it available.

In addition to the loss of human life, Eleians lost their olive orchards, a significant part of their livelihood. Although Olympia was saved, lesser known architectural monuments were affected. Masonry did not easily burn, but wooden roofs, scaffolding, etc. collapsed. As preservationists know all too well, the deterioration rates of a building once the roof collapses are dramatic. After the fire, the Greek media focused on the options: to rebuild or tear down. During 1990-2000, the Morea Project documented thousands of houses in the area. The data is available here on a wonderful server that Todd Breningmeyer has put together. Many of the villages we surveyed were directly hit by the fires. It's sad to think that our architectural survey, in many cases, remains as the only record of such a rich architectural tradition.

1 comment:

Bill Caraher said...


This is great!! Can you make your map of the fire ravaged areas available as an ESRI shapefile. It would also be useful (and perhaps more universally accessible) as a Google Earth kzm or kml file. There are several plug-ins that will do that and most are inexpensive or even free!

Great GIS work.


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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States