CULTURE

Archaeological museum opens on Nisyros

On the eastern Aegean island of Nisyros, three recently completed state projects aimed at preserving and promoting the small volcanic island?s cultural heritage may help attract additional visitors to its shores. Authorities from the Greek Ministry of Culture and Tourism officially opened a new archaeological museum for the island on September 13, 2010. Also launched were major restoration works on the walls of Palaiokastro, Nisyros?s ancient acropolis which overlooks the main port town of Mandraki, and at the Byzantine church of Panaghia Faneromeni, located in Karia, south of Mandraki.

The new museum?s construction has been sponsored both privately by the Yiannidis brothers, natives of Nisyros, and publicly by the Greek state. Its diachronic displays ? spanning the island?s history from prehistoric to Byzantine times ? were prepared and installed by specialists from the 22nd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Many of the exhibited objects had been recovered by rescue excavations during the island?s occupation by the Italians (1912-1943). A number of marble architectural pieces on display were donated from local private collections.

Restoration of the 4th-century-BC fortifications at Palaiokastro, which are constructed of black volcanic rock, resulted in the re-erection of two towers using authentic materials.

Although the visually striking walls represent one of the best-preserved ancient fortresses to be found in the Aegean, the roughly 2,300-year-old monument had suffered the ravages of time and some wall sections had begun to collapse. After careful study, fallen stones were replaced wherever possible in their original positions. Responsible for the restoration were architect Anna Apostolou and civil engineer Costas Zambas. The site was also cleaned, beautified and made more accommodating through the installation of paths, stone-constructed visitors? areas and well-placed information panels.

The completed project has received kudos from Europa Nostra, the pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage.

Work at the architecturally distinctive Church of the Panaghia Faneromeni, dated by its richly colorful wall paintings to the early 12th century AD, focused on stabilizing the building?s structure. Following a study of the impressive medieval chapel, restorations were completed in 2009 under the authority of the 4th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities. Nisyros, long known for its rugged natural beauty and still-active volcano, also has fascinating archaeological and historical monuments well worth seeing.