This week, I’m writing my post to you from Kythera!
So what better time to share with you some of Kythera’s history and the latest exciting news about archaeological finds on the island?
The island of Kythera is situated at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and has 5000 years of maritime history associated with it. Inhabited since the Neolithic era, Bronze Age, Early Greek, and Minoan sites of archaeological interest are still being uncovered today. Much of Kythera remains untouched in terms of archaeological projects, but slowly more sites of interest are being discovered, attracting teams of historical experts from around the globe.
In 1993, Yiannis Sakellarakis and Eli Sapouna-Sakellaraki led a three-week excavation on the island to discover more about the first Minoan peak sanctuary found outside Crete. As well as previously finding three bronze statuettes and a few pottery fragments, when archaeologists returned to the site it became clear that what lay there was in fact the site of a Minoan sanctuary, associated with an already excavated Minoan settlement at Kastri.
John Fardoulis is part of the We Dig Kythira project, which was established in 2010 with the aim of bringing together members of the public, students and scholars to help discover and share rich Kytherian history. The project has uncovered ancient Greek walls, artefacts, and assisted in the reopening of a 720 year old church, built using columns from a temple erected 1900 years earlier. Kythera was a Laconian city for 500 years, with Spartan soldiers guarding it, and it is believed the walls the group uncovered were part of the ancient capital’s marketplace.
Archaeologist, Aris Tsaravopoulos, has also assisted on the project and spent more than two decades investigating the archaeology of Kythera. He has led excavations at many sites, including the Minoan tomb at Karavas and the Housti cave at Diakofti.
Professor Tim Gregory and Dr. Lita Gregory, academics at Ohio State University, also have close connections to the Kytheran community, and are currently leading projects designed to bring to light the forgotten history of Kythera. Their recent study, The Karavas Water Project, uncovered the history of water resources in the north of the island and how the introduction of water mills transformed the island’s landscape and fortunes.
In 1980, just outside the harbour of Avlemonas, a group from the Institute of Marine Archaeology found the ancient shipwreck of the “Mentor”, the ship Lord Elgin used in 1802 to transfer
the stolen Parthenon sculptures and fragments of other monuments. The archaeologists’ investigation identified the remains of the ill-fated ship’s cargo, including appliances and items used by the crew, fragments of Egyptian sculptures, and an abundance of articles providing important information on trade and navigation of the time.
Excitingly, just a few weeks ago, a new underwater excavation, funded by the Australian Institute Kytherian Research Group, was carried out at the site. During the two-week search period, divers found three ancient handles of Rhodian amphoras and a small stone vessel. The handles date to the 3rd century B.C. and belong to jars made in the island of Rhodes. The findings confirm the theory that other antiquities besides the Parthenon marbles were aboard the ship.
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