The treasures of the Aegean

For many years, the general public showed little enthusiasm for archaeological discoveries. Either the finds were little known outside a narrow circle of specialists or there were few who comprehended their significance. Even when the public became more aware and the press began to show an interest in the mid-1990s, the spotlight usually fell on the most striking discoveries and the most popular sites. Who, for instance, knows what exactly lies beneath the topsoil of the smaller islands of Makronissos, Yarous, Gavdos and Psyttaleia, or of the islands that once belonged to Miletus and helped ensure free passage across the Aegean? The latter are now considered to be part of the Dodecanese – islands such as Agathonissi, Arkioi Patmos, Leipsoi, Farmakonissi and Leros. Who knows anything about Psara, a tiny island that was an unknown archaeological quantity until the 1960s, when S. Harotinidis, then ephor of antiquities, discovered a Mycenean acropolis at Palaiocastro, more commonly known as Mavri Rachi and made famous by the poet Dionysis Solomos. These are just some examples from «Nissia tou Aigaiou» (Islands of the Aegean), the first in a new series of books on archaeology published by Melissa Editions. Professor Christos Doumas wrote the 16-page note on the contents and Andreas Vlachopoulos is the academic editor. A deluxe edition that includes material on 80 islands and contributions from 46 writers, it was three years in the making, Vlachopoulos told Kathimerini. The aim, he explained, «was to map archaeological activity in Greece by means of texts written by reputable individuals who have conducted excavations and research.» All the islands of the Aegean appear in its 480 pages, with an emphasis on finds and conclusions of the past 20 years. Both striking, famous finds and less «brilliant» ones, as the editor describes them, help give the archaeological profile of each island. Among the sites included is that of windswept Palamari, on the northern tip of Skyros, where, as Doumas says, the excavation site «confirms the significance of sea currents for communications in the prehistoric Aegean.» There are the kouroi of Despotiko, Antiparos; Evangelos Kakavoyiannis’s conclusion that there was intensive mining and metalworking on Makronissos; and the secrets of Yarous: «There is evidence that before the legendary expulsion of the islanders by the legendary iron-eating mice and before it became a place of exile and suffering that there was another world on the island.»

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