AIA News

March 27, 2024

What Secrets do Currently Uninhabited Small Cycladic Islands Hold About Past Human Activity?

by Alex Knodell

Fieldwalking on Kato Firo, north of Antiparos. Photo Courtesy of Alex Knodell.
Surveyors on Ano Firo, north of Antiparos.
Team photo on Vriokastro, north east of Paros, in 2020.
The survey team and Hellenistic tower remains on Serifopoula.
Surveying on Piperi.

Archaeological survey is an important starting point for understanding past human activity and occupation patterns. Systematic ground reconnaissance involves the search for sites and material remains through visual inspection of the surface. Archaeological survey can give us answers about when a given place was occupied and by whom and sometimes even what they were doing and why.

An AIA-NEH grant funded fieldwork for the Small Cycladic Islands Project in 2020 and 2021. In July of 2020, SCIP carried out a short, three-week field season with team members based in Greece. The project began with the survey of Strongylo, located south of the islands of Antiparos and Despotiko. As the largest island in the survey area, this took some time, though it yielded a wide range of diachronic results. Week 2 focused on the islets north of Antiparos, including Aghios Spiridon, Firo, Diplo, and Magrines, as well as a revisitation of Saliagos, well known for its Neolithic remains. In the final week of the field season we returned to Paros to survey the islets of the Bay of Naousa, many of which were inhabited as part of the 1770-1774 Russian occupation of the area, which left a substantial material signature on these islets.

The team began the 2021 field season of SCIP on Kythnos, which we used as a base to carry out two weeks of fieldwork on several islets around Kythnos (Aghios Loukas, Aghios Ioannis Eleimon, Zogaki, Kalo Livadi and Piperi) and Serifos (Serifopoula and Vous). All of these yielded a range of material, some more than others. The more remote islands of Serifopoula and Piperi had exceptionally interesting finds, in spite of their remoteness, suggesting that these were important waypoints in wider Aegean networks. For the third week of the project we moved to Platys Gialos, on Sifnos, from which we carried out a survey of Kitriani (or Kypriani), best known for the church of Panaghia Kypriani and as a historical haunt for pirates. The final phase of the project consisted of fieldwork and study on several islets surrounding Syros. Near the port of Ermoupoli, we surveyed Didimi (sometimes called Gaidouronisi or Pharos, for the famous lighthouse on top), Strongylo, and Aspro. On the western side of Syros, we worked on the small islets in the Bay of Foinikas (Schoinonisi, Strongylo, Diakoftis, Psathonisi, and Alatonisi) and to the north of Kini (Delfini and Varvarousa).

Learn more about the Small Cycladic Islands Project on its website.

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