Dimitris Plantzos

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Dimitris Plantzos


Dimitris Plantzos is a classical archaeologist, educated at Athens (BA, 1982-1987) and Oxford (MPhil, 1988-1990; DPhil, 1990-1993). He is the author of various papers and books on Greek art and archaeology, archaeological theory and classical reception. His Greek-language textbook on Greek Art and Archaeology, first published in 2011 by Kapon Editions, was published in 2016 in English by Lockwood Press in Atlanta, Georgia. He was also co-editor of the volume A Singular Antiquity. Archaeology and Hellenic Identity in 20th century Greece (published in Athens in 2008) and the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Greek Art (2012; paperback edition 2018). His latest books are The Recent Future, a study of archaeological biopolitics in contemporary Greece (2016, Nefeli Editions), and a study of ancient Greek painting in 2018, also published on both sides of the Atlantic. He is co-director of the Argos Orestikon Excavation Project; he teaches classical archaeology and reception at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.


We have always been ancient: ancient DNA and the modern imaginary

The lecture focuses on the archaeological sub-field of archaeogenetics, and the ways it may be deployed in current political discourse in order to substantiate nationalist claims of heredity as a blood-based relationship. A number of case studies are deployed in order to show how, in Modern Greece but also elsewhere, antique skeletal remains are seen as national relics, as well as cultural icons. This generates a politically charged sort of “DNA archaeology”, only partially involving the ideas or actions of archaeology professionals, but strongly affecting public receptions of, and responses to, the past. And this is because archaeogenetic discourse and its results – factual, exaggerated, or plain fabricated – may be deployed by different stakeholders within contemporary societies in order to mobilize certain parts of the population or exclude others to the point of elimination, by means of their symbolic or even biological death.


Brown, K. A., & Pluciennik, M. (2001). Archaeology and human genetics: lessons for both. Antiquity, 75, 287, 101-106.

Frieman, C. J., & Hofmann, D. (2019). Present pasts in the archaeology of genetics, identity, and migration in Europe: a critical essay. World Archaeology, 51, 4, 528-545.

Hakenbeck, S. E. (2019). Genetics, archaeology and the far right: an unholy Trinity. World Archaeology, 51, 4, 517-527.

Lazaridis, I. (2017). Genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans. Nature, 548, 214-218.

Mirza, M. N., & Dungworth, D. B. (1995). The potential misuse of genetic analyses and the social construction of `race’ and `ethnicity’. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 14, 3, 345.