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Greece mourns American who revived ancient Nemea Games
A professor at University of California at Berkeley, and former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Miller excavated the ancient Nemea stadium in 1973 and helped supervise the Games' revival from 1994 onwards. Photo: © ΥΠΠΟΑ.

ATHENS (AFP).- Greece's culture ministry on Wednesday expressed sorrow at the death of Stephen Miller, a US archaeologist who dedicated much of his life in the revival of the ancient Nemea Games.

"Archaeological research has lost a great, dedicated scientist and Greece has lost a great friend," Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement.

She said the archaeologist, who died at the age of 79, had "dedicated his life" to the discovery and promotion of Greek cultural heritage.

Alongside Olympia, the Isthmus of Corinth and Delphi, Nemea hosted one of the four Panhellenic Games of ancient Greece.

A professor at University of California at Berkeley, and former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Miller excavated the ancient Nemea stadium in 1973 and helped supervise the Games' revival from 1994 onwards.

He also headed a team to partially reconstruct the fourth century BC Temple of Zeus in Nemea.

The Nemea Games are now held every four years in June, focused on "education by, emulation of, and contact with ancient Greece," Miller told AFP in a 2017 interview.

Runners step into stone grooves used by ancient athletes, and race a 90-metre dash in white tunics and no shoes.

Victors are crowned with wreaths of wild celery.

The race is launched with a hysplex, a wooden starting gate whose reconstruction from the ancient version took 25 years "and most of my hair", Miller had jibed.

In a 2004 interview with the Berkeley university newsletter, Miller recalled that his projects met with local opposition early on, and were constantly short of money.

"I was shot at once. In 1980... ultimately the chief of police went to one (suspected) family and said, 'If Miller gets run over by a bus in Berkeley, I'm coming after you.' And that stopped it," he said.

The latest Nemea Games had been scheduled to be held in 2020. They were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and are now to be held in 2022.

© Agence France-Presse

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