Skip to comments.Experts Prepare Excavation on Greek Island
Posted on 01/09/2006 9:36:16 PM PST by NormsRevenge
ATHENS, Greece - British and Greek archaeologists are preparing a major excavation on a tiny Greek island to try to explain why it produced history's largest collection of Cycladic flat-faced marble figurines.
Artwork from barren Keros inspired such artists as Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore but also attracted ruthless looters. Now experts are seeking insight into the island's possible role as a major religious center of the enigmatic Cycladic civilization some 4,500 years ago.
Excavations will run April through June.
"Keros is one of the riddles of prehistoric archaeology," said Peggy Sotirakopoulou, curator of the Cycladic collection at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens.
Of the more than 1,400 Cycladic figurines that have survived, only 40 percent are of known origin, as looters destroyed all evidence on the rest. But more than half the documented artifacts are from Keros.
"What is particularly impressive is not just the bulk of the finds, which is larger than the total from the rest of the Cyclades, but also that they were intentionally broken during ancient times," Sotirakopoulou said. "Therefore, this is a very important, a unique site."
The Cycladic culture a network of small, sometimes fortified farming and fishing settlements that traded with mainland Greece, Crete and Asia Minor is best known for its elegant artwork: mostly naked, elongated figures with their arms folded under their chest. The seafaring civilization was eclipsed in the second millennium B.C. by Crete and Mycenaean Greece.
Currently inhabited by a goatherd and his flock, Keros lies near the eastern rim of the Cyclades island chain which includes the humming resorts of Mykonos and Santorini between the larger islands of Naxos and Amorgos.
Keros was extensively pillaged during the 1950s and 1960s for its marble figurines, hundreds of which were illegally exported to fill museums and private collections in Europe, the United States, Australia and Japan.
Evidence from excavations in the '60s and 1980s failed to explain why the barren islet was so much more important in the 3rd millennium B.C. than its bigger, more hospitable neighbors.
"The prevailing explanation is that this was a sacred repository, a sort of pan-Cycladic sanctuary where people left objects within the framework of rituals which included their intentional smashing," said Sotirakopoulou.
She will participate in the summer's excavation together with Cambridge University professor Colin Renfrew and other experts.
Past digs legitimate or otherwise were carried out on the islet of Dhaskalio, just off Keros, and the Kavos area opposite. This year's work will focus on virgin ground.
"We hope the forthcoming excavations will clarify further the nature of the occupation and activities at Dhaskalio and Kavos," Renfrew said.
"It is clear Kavos was an important site where high prestige artifacts were deliberately broken and left. It is possible, but not yet certain, these were ritual actions relating to ceremonies in honor of the dead."
Experts agree that the elegant marble figurines were highly prized in the early bronze age Cyclades but still don't understand for what purpose they were made.
The figurines have been variously interpreted as depicting gods or venerated ancestors, serving as replacements for human sacrifice or children's toys.
One thing is certain: They were not abstract works of art pared down to the barest representational essentials.
"Visitors say, 'Oh how pure, how white the figurines are,'" Sotirakopoulou said. "But in fact they had details_ hair, eyes, eyebrows, jewelry painted on. In most cases, the paint has vanished."
This photo, released by the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, on Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, shows a group of smashed 4,500-year-old figurines from the Aegean Sea islet of Keros in the museum's collection. In April 2006, Greek and British archaeologists are to excavate on Keros in the hope of discovering why the tiny, arid islet once boasted the world's largest concentration of Cycladic marble artwork. (AP Photo/Museum of Cycladic Art)
A 4,500-year-old marble figurine of a male harpist, found on the Aegean Sea islet of Keros, is displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens on Monday, Jan. 9, 2006. In April 2006, Greek and British archaeologists are to excavate on Keros in the hope of discovering why the tiny, arid islet once boasted the world's largest concentration of Cycladic marble artwork. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
The should check the place for shrooms before they dig it all
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Great posting! I remember sailing by this island on one of my Aegean adventures...I was unconcerned about its past then.
I know that the looting that went on (and still does) has led to a large looted cache in private collection in Switzerland...at least it was there the last time I heard.
The ethical crisis in archaeloogy seems to be on everyone's mind...but little is being done to stop it.
Greek interest section ping.
I remember sailing by this island on one of my Aegean adventures
How many times ya been there? med cruises?
I have never traveled thru that specific area before.
I used to live in Greece...3 years..taught and traveled.
There are many ways to get around the Aegean and I took as much advantage as possible (no Med cruises---mainly local ferries and friends' yachts). Each island has its uniqueness and beauty. Tourism has spoiled a lot of them, but the essence remains and in some cases the traditional lifestyle as well.
They just hum?
I'll add Keros to my list of "places to get away from it all".
Just updating the GGG info, not sending a general distribution.
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In the jewel-bright Aegean Sea, a small Greek island holds an ancient mystery. 4,000 years ago, Dhaskalio was a promontory connected to its larger neighbor, the island of Keros. On this pyramid-shaped hill stood a sanctuary where visitors brought intentionally broken statues. A complex of buildings and terraces grew built with many tons of marble quarried on another island. Water conduits ran through the complex, advanced engineering for the age. In the 3rd millennium BC, Keros was becoming one of the Greece's first urban centers. But what made the sanctuary sacred in the first place is yet to be discovered.
On a Greek Island, Clues to a Mysterious Civilization | National Geographic | Published on January 21, 2018
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