Scholarly study on finds from island of Keros

They are the pieces to a puzzle that archaeologists have not completely deciphered. Around 350 fragments of ancient Cycladic figurines as well as shards of ceramic or marble vases unearthed since the 1960s in the area of Kavos on the island of Keros have been dispersed all over the world. Of the 1,400 Cycladic figurines that have survived to today, the finds from Keros form a substantial part of the documented material. More than 50 percent of the total number is of unknown provenance, the outcome of looting and illicit export. Around 150 objects found on Keros used to be part of the Erlenmeyer collection which its owners decided to auction off in 1990. The Museum of Cycladic Art, in collaboration with the Commercial Bank of Greece, acquired 76 pieces from this collection, thus helping to repatriate important antiquities of early Cycladic culture. Until now, none of those holdings had been analyzed in a systematic way by any expert in archaeology. «The Keros hoard,» as those dispersed fragments of Cycladic idols and vases had become known, had not been appraised or analyzed. Fragments from different collections could be the broken parts of a single object or figurine but none of this has thus far been established. «The ‘Keros Hoard:’ Myth or Reality?» a book written by archaeologist and specialist in the prehistoric civilization of the Cyclades Peggy Sotirakopoulou is the first systematic and scientific study of the subject. It is a fully documented, scholarly book addressed to specialists but equally interesting to the general reader, that clarifies some of the puzzle while also raising new questions on the Keros hoard. The book – under the initiative of Dolly Goulandri – was recently released by Kapon Editions, along with the N.P. Goulandris Foundation – Museum of Cycladic Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Cycladic Art Foundation in New York as publishers, examines the totality of the Keros hoard, not just those of the Erlenmeyer collection, in the hope that the data revealed will shed light on the nature of this important archaeological site and the civilization it came from. The fact that the Keros hoard consists of broken fragments is in itself an enigma. Sotirakopoulou claims that these figurines were used in rituals that required the objects to be smashed. Along with other archaeologists she supports the theory that the site at which they were found was most likely a sacred repository, a kind of sanctuary for the broader region. In her book, Sotirakopoulou provides extensive background information (she writes about the history of the excavations on the site) before going through an exhaustive documentation of the typologies of Cycladic figurines. She then goes on to analyze one by one the finds in the Keros hoard, first those of the former Erlenmeyer collection and then the rest. A scholarly document, Sotirakopoulou’s research will most likely open the way toward new studies in the area of the prehistoric Cycladic civilization.

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