Archaeologists had discovered more ‘secrets’ on Keros, possibly the world’s oldest known island sanctuary

secrets-world-oldest-island-sanctuary-keros_1Credit: Phso2, Wikimedia Commons.

The now-uninhabited island of Keros (in Cyclades about 6 miles southeast of Naxos) was one of the important sites for the Cycladic civilization that flourished circa 2500 BC. Known for its Keros Hoard comprising a range of Cycladic flat-faced figurines (that inspired many of the works of Pablo Picasso), the mysterious landscape is home to even more secrets, as evidenced by newer findings. To that end, while judging the sanctuary be around 5,000-years old, archaeologists had discovered an ancient staircase that connected two particular areas of Keros, the Kavos mount with the Dhaskalio islet. Additionally on Kavos itself, they had also found a slew of broken pieces of marble Cycladic figurines, along with marble basins and striking wine vessels, all probably used as ritual offerings.

Intriguingly enough, researchers had tried to piece together many of these marble objects, but to no avail. In essence, the pieces were probably not part of any singular artifact, and thus were brought to the island in their broken forms – which suggests their ritualistic purposes. As British archaeologist Sir Colin Renfrew, who had spent over a decade in studying the remnants of the Cycladic civilization on Keros, said (back in 2011) –

It appears that there was a kind of obligation to bring a piece of the broken figurine and deposit it on the sacred island of Keros, possibly by staying a few days in Dhaskalio during the completion of the ceremony.

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Credit: Eric Gaba, Wikimedia Commons

Researchers have analysed the style of these pottery fragments and reached the conclusion that most of the ‘broken’ ritual offerings were made between the period of 2750 and 2550 BC, with gradual subsiding of the activity in the next century or so. The aforementioned staircase was also used for the ceremonies on the island. In 2008, an additional sanctuary structure was identified that dated from circa 2400 BC. However, historically the entire sanctuary was probably abandoned by 2000 BC. According to Professor Renfrew –

The importance of the Keros sanctuary as the first important religious center in the Aegean Bronze Age is reinforced by new findings in the structure on Dhaskalio. The main ritual offerings of broken marble figurines and vases and ceramic drinking vessels were on the mount Kavos on Keros, without being accompanied by impressive structures or a large building complex.

He further stressed on the historical importance of the early Bronze Age religious structures on the islands –

Instead these monumental buildings were built on the settlement of Dhaskalio. The design and monumental characteristics are now beginning to be understood. It was clearly the most important ceremonial center of the Cyclades in central Aegean since the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. Undoubtedly some 500 years earlier than any other ceremonial center in the prehistoric Aegean.

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Composite of fragments, each from a different statue. Copyright: Cambridge-Keros Project

Harp player, Cycladic civilization. Credit: Robur.q, Wikimedia Commons

Source: GreekReporter

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  • Mara Cohen

    The sculpture of the Harp Player is exquisite.

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