Greece – Excavating in the Aegean: The Case of Despotiko, Paros

Location: Despotiko, Paros, GR

Season: May 20, 2024 to June 15, 2024

Session Dates: MAY 20 – JUNE 15, 2024

Application Deadline: April 1, 2024

Deadline Type: Contact for Details


Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:


Project Director:
Yannos Kourayos, Director of Excavation at Despotiko, Greek Ministry of Culture

Project Description:

This summer course offers students the unique opportunity to actively participate in the excavation of one of the most prominent sanctuaries of the Aegean, situated on the uninhabited islet of Despotiko, west of Antiparos, in the center of the Cyclades. Systematically excavated since 2001, this sanctuary -dedicated to Apollo-, proved to be almost as rich as the well-known sanctuary on the sacred island of Delos in its architectural development and its dedications.

While unveiling the history and the different phases of ritual activity at this important Cycladic sanctuary, the participants will be introduced to archaeological fieldwork methods and theory. In particular, the excavation will focus on the exploration of a number of edifices not only within the sacred precinct, but also outside of it. An oval or apsidal building of the 8th century B.C., which represents the earliest construction of the site up to date, presents special interest. The interpretation of its character and function is crucial for reconstructing the earliest ritual practices at the site.

The sanctuary attracted numerous votive dedications of various types. This gives students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with a variety of artifacts of different materials and types covering a wide chronological range extending from the Early Iron Age (9th-8th c. BC) to the Classical period.

During the first three weeks of the course, students will reside in the village of Agios Georgios on Antiparos, from where they will be transported daily by a boat at the excavation site on Despotiko. During these weeks, they will study and experience the entire excavation procedure. They will be taught the basic methods of stratigraphical excavation, onsite documentation, recording and processing of the finds. The work at the site will be combined with a number of afternoon lectures and activities at the village, including the detailed documentation of daily activities at the site, the preparation of architectural plans and, more importantly, keeping the excavation diary.

Afternoon lectures will cover the theoretical issues concerning archaeological theory and methods; the various types of archaeological evidence with a focus on the material from Despotiko; ancient religious practices and rituals; the birth and development of Greek sanctuaries and, in particular, those in the Cyclades. The aim of these lectures is to enable students to fully comprehend the purpose of systematic excavation and to place the sanctuary and its material culture into its theoretical context.

The last week of the course will be spent on the island of Paros, where students will work in the storage rooms of the Archaeological Museum of Paros with material from the site. There, they will be trained at the detailed processing of the finds, mostly of pottery, figurines and other minor objects. They will therefore become acquainted with the process, which enables the detailed study, interpretation and publication of the excavated material. They will be taught archaeological drawing and photography, necessary tools for the study of the objects.

The work at the museum will be supplemented with afternoon classes, focusing on pottery and various clay finds. Students will be provided with necessary information on the main Greek pottery production centers, the clay, the shapes, uses and dissemination of Greek ceramics. The discussions will be adapted to the nature of the finds processed at the museum.

Enrollment and Credit

Currently registered undergraduates majoring in relevant subjects will receive priority, as will applicants with a B+ average or above. The nature of the course is primarily introductory, but students with a stronger background in archaeology will have the opportunity to do more advanced work.

Recommended credit: 4
Students are responsible for arranging academic credit with their colleges or universities. Most colleges and universities accept College Year in Athens courses for transfer credit; students whose home institutions do not grant credit on the basis of the College Year in Athens transcript should contact the CYA North American Office (617/868-8200; to discuss available alternatives.

Period(s) of Occupation: Archaic - Classical

This summer course introduces students to archaeological fieldwork methods and theory through active participation in the systematic excavation of the sanctuary of Apollo situated on the uninhabited islet of Despotiko, the most important sancturary after Delos, west of Antiparos, in the center of the Cyclades in the Aegean.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: No, but students with a stronger background in archaeology will have the opportunity to do more advanced work.

Room and Board Arrangements:
During the first three weeks of the program on Antiparos students will be housed in the Zombos Rooms to Let, on the beach of Agios Georgios, in double- or triple-occupancy, air-conditioned rooms.  For the last week of the program students will be accommodated in the Aegean Village Hotel in Paroikia.  Lunch is included Monday through Friday at Paroikia and at Agios Georgios.

Academic Credit:
Students receive a transcript from CYA listing the class

Contact Information:

College Year in Athens

PO Box 390890





Phone: 617 868 8200

Fax: 617 868 8207

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