In the Aegean’s dawn

What is probably the earliest fortified settlement in the Aegean and one of the largest of its time in Greece has been discovered on the island of Andros, the Ministry of Culture said yesterday. The 6,500-year-old settlement at Strofilas, occupying a plateau on the western side of the island, is expected to shed light on the little-known period of Aegean history which immediately preceded the sophisticated Cycladic civilization, with its distinctive marble sculpture, that flourished in the center of the archipelago throughout the third millennium BC. From the finds we have so far, we conclude that this is the largest and best-preserved, organized – and extremely densely built-up – settlement of the Neolithic period that has been found and excavated so far in the Aegean Islands, a ministry statement said. Although later than the Neolithic towns of Thessaly, the Strofilas site is at least 1,500 years older than the first settlement at Troy, and predates the Mycenaean civilization by about three millennia. The discovery of several copper tools, spearheads and brooches indicates that a highly developed metallurgical industry existed in the archipelago at a much earlier date than archaeologists suspected so far. Furthermore, the copper implements – which were still rare at a time when stone was the dominant material for tools – point to a high degree of affluence, which probably derived from trade with the rest of the islands, as well as with Attica and the mainland. The densely built portion of the settlement covers 2.5 to three hectares, and spans the entire Final Neolithic period (4,500-3,300 BC). Archaeologists have excavated a 100-meter stretch of defensive stone wall between 1.6 and two meters thick that stands up to two meters high. Perhaps its most striking feature is a 1.5-meter-wide gate flanked by elliptical, protecting bastions. This feature also appears in the fortified, hilltop settlement of Kastri on the nearby island of Syros, which was built over two thousand years later during the second half of the third millennium BC. The settlement itself, built in the island hinterland in a departure from the usual coastal location, consisted of large apsidal and rectangular stone buildings, preserved to a height of one meter in some cases. According to finds from the only other known – but much later – Final Neolithic settlement, in the Cyclades on the Kephala promontory on Kea, island communities at the time consisted of farmers, shepherds and fishermen who ate cereals, beef, goats, sheep, pigs and fish, and were skilled potters who also produced fine-quality marble vases and were buried in arranged cemeteries. The people of Strofilas were particularly fortunate in being surrounded by fertile land in a lush landscape with plentiful springs and streams. Police attacked. About 30 Gypsies in Dendropotamos, Thessaloniki, Wednesday night allegedly attacked police officers after they arrested Dimitrios