The Greenpeace ‘Archaeologist’

When the Nazca lines fiasco broke, Greenpeace’s response was to assure the world it worked with an archaeologist, taking every possible precaution:

Questions arose immediately:

Peru’s deputy Minister of Culture Luis Jaime Castillo went so far as to say the archaeologist was ‘the person you have to identify’

An archaeologist was identified in a New York Times report of the incident. It named Wolfgang Sadik, an ‘archaeologist-turned activist’ who we were told had ‘set aside his studies to work for Greenpeace’. The NYT relied on a Reuters video to relay how Sadik seemed to be directing ‘some of the other activists’. It quoted photographer Rodrigo Abd:

“The archaeologist explained where to walk and where not to walk,”… “There was a great concern not to even leave a mark of your shoes on the ground, and if a rock was moved put it back in its place.”

The article further quoted Wolfgang Neubauer of the University of Vienna who informed Sadik was his doctoral candidate and had ‘put off his studies to work with Greenpeace.’

This blog will show there’s more than what the New York Times let its readers in for.

Far from being a consultant archaeologist, Wolfgang Sadik is a committed long-time Greenpeace activist who has conducted several campaigns for the organization including some in leadership positions.

Sadik’s recorded Greenpeace activism appears to begin over a decade ago in 2003 when he appeared in Tuwaitha, Iraq near Baghdad as a ‘Greenpeace spokesman’. He was part of a 6-member Greenpeace team that measured radiation and radiation sickness at sites where looted material from the Tuwaitha nuclear facilities had made their way.

In 2007, Greenpeace planned for a symbolism-laden stunt at Mount Ararat near Turkey. Sadik was the leader. Battling skepticism within Greenpeace (‘too sentimental, too American, not serious enough’) Sadik pushed plans for building a boat-shaped ‘Noah’s ark’ structure on the slopes of the mountain to coincide with a G8 summit at Heiligendamm.

Greenpeace Ark – the brainchild of Wolfgang Sadik. (c) Norman Grant

In one respect, similarities between the Nazca stunt and Greenpeace’s Ark are striking. As the team ‘action coordinator’ he reasoned:

 The Ark was an available and widely-known symbol, so why not use it?

The ark project was successful in attracting month-long ‘international media attention’ (Greenpeace criterion for success); the source article reports Sadik thought the stunt ‘had had the biggest impact of any campaign Greenpeace had ever created in that part of the world’.

In the period afterward, Sadik appears to have shifted to archaeology, working with Wolfgang Neubauer on archaeological excavations in Hallstatt, Austria. A 46-page glitzy pamphlet produced in 2008 highlights his work on the site. It is not clear when he stopped in archaeology.

In February 2011 Sadik surfaced in Fukushima, Japan, once again measuring radiation levels. This time, Der Spiegel was laundering Sadik’s views as a ‘Greenpeace expert’ as it warned of a possible reactor meltdown. He was already back with Greenpeace earlier in the year: in January he was in a round-table discussion with host Reinhard Ueberhorst in his capacity as Greenpeace’s ‘Energy 2010 campaign manager’. Last year Sadik took part in another ark building projectArche2020‘ as ‘project coordinator’ from Greenpeace Germany.

From the above, it is evident Greenpeace performed little to no archaeological due diligence in planning their Nazca act. Instead of employing external and independent expertise, it went with what was available inside, using wrong advice from an activist member as cover for its actions. It is not known if other archaeologists were present in the Greenpeace team.

UPDATE: DGH (@Bioreducer) points out Sadik’s involvement with Greenpeace goes further back, with a 1997 report of a Greenpeace ‘Genetic Hazard Patrol’ chaining itself to a ‘tanker truck containing 35,000 litres of genetically engineered soya oil’ in Rotterdam, which likely included Sadik.

[minor edits]

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7 comments

  1. Shub Niggurath

    Thanks for the clarification Clyde. I remember reading something about Mount Ararat being close to the Turkey border and controversies with bordering Armenia.

    I’ll add a note to the original post.