Ten of some 40 footprints on the Kasteli site have been cut away and removed from the rock, where they were found by a Polish paleontologist in 2002.
The theft was discovered by a member of the public that visited the site on Tuesday and alerted local police, and was later confirmed by the Natural History Museum of Crete.
Police and scientists are now investigating the case, while Kissamos Mayor Thodoris Stathakis, in statements to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, noted it raised an issue of protecting cultural heritage sites in the area.
“The issue of showcasing but also protecting antiquities that exist in the region must be dealt with directly,” he stressed.
Immediately identifiable and recognisable fossilised footprints
In an announcement published on Thursday, the Natural History Museum of Crete confirmed the theft and was sharply critical of those responsible.
“.. Following information we received, a member of the research team, Charalambos Fasoulas, visited Kissamos on Wednesday and carried out an inspection. This confirmed that at some time, probably at the beginning of the previous week, unknown individuals acting selfishly and without conscience had proceeded to destroy and remove from the archaeological site sections of rocks that included 10 footprints out of a total of 40 that have been studied. Mr. Fasoulas went to the police station in the area and reported the incident, providing all information possible,” the announcement said.
The announcement also noted that the entire site and the footprints found have been accurately measured and recorded by research teams using laser techniques, so that every part of it is immediately identifiable and recognisable. As a result, it added, it would be impossible to attempt to sell the footprints without this being immediately detected.
“Consequently, if anyone thought that they could profit from this act they are out of luck. The Museum unequivocally condemns this action, which is shameful for our country and for all of us. It accepts the share of responsibility that probably belongs to it and calls on all the agencies and services involved to take immediate action today to protect the site and the fossils from possible similar destructive actions, as well as to take the necessary action to showcase the finds, which was the desire of the entire research team.”
Independent city from Classical era up to the Roman times
Kastelli Kissamou is located 36 km west of Chania in the area where ancient Kissamos (port of Polirrinia) used to be. Nowadays, it is the fourth largest port of the island and is connected by boats with Gythio and Kithira. The area is very popular for its port, history and wine. During antiquity, Kissamos was developed and flourished as an independent city – from Classical era up to the Roman times – and this is verified by the ruins of constructions that were preserved such as the baths, the water reservoir, the famous floor mosaics and the citadel located in Seli area. Scientists uncovered in the area findings of Mycenaean times. Many years later, during the Venetian occupation Kissamos was surrounded by fortified walls for protection from sea enemies. People also built the fort – castello, from which the town took its name. Nowadays, only ruins are saved from this massive wall as sieges and attacks of the Turks were so many that the wall could not endure.
In the small but organized city museum you will see findings from excavations in ancient Kissamos and its surrounding areas. The museum’s collection includes floor mosaics of 2nd and 3rd century houses found in Kissamos city, as well as findings from the archeological sites of Polirrinia and Falasarna (mainly statues, reliefs and ceramics dating back to the Hellenistic and Roman times).