31 JULY 2019 / Exceptional Bronze Age Cycladic Site Featured in New Exhibition

A mysterious cache of broken figurines. An Aegean maritime sanctuary older than known worship of gods there. Thousands of tons of marble used to transform a landform into an enormous “pyramid.”

Even as study of Early Bronze Age activity (from roughly 2750 to 2250 BCE) on the Cycladic island of Keros have uncovered new information, they’ve raised intriguing new questions and possibilities. A new exhibit at the Museum of Koufonisi, organized by the Ephoreia of the Cyclades, explores these questions through some of the material uncovered on Keros.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) has provided repeated support to the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge for various aspects of the Cambridge Keros Project. The Project’s archaeological work in and around Keros was conducted with the British School at Athens and in conjunction with the Greek Ministry of Culture.

The Keros Hoard is the name given to an extensive collection of pieces of broken Cycladic figurines deposited on the western side of the island, known originally from looting of the deposition site. Nearby excavations by the Keros Cambridge Project revealed what turned out to be by far the largest in situ find of Cycladic figurines yet. The archeologists interpret the hoard as evidence of a ritual practice by people from around the Aegean that endured for five hundred years.

A rise in sea level over the last several thousand years has turned what was formerly an isthmus of Keros into the independent islet of Dhaskalio. Excavations by the Cambridge Keros Project there revealed that thousands of tons of marble were imported for a comprehensive building program that transformed the promontory into a unified pyramid-shaped site. Their findings lead the archaeologists to conclude that Keros hosted the first maritime sanctuary in the world.

SNF provided support for excavation seasons and for publication of findings from Keros in 2007 and 2010. In 2017, SNF provided support for the publication of additional volumes and the relevant analysis work. The project is co-directed by Professor Colin Renfrew and Dr. Michael Boyd, whose work as Stavros S. Niarchos Fellow was supported by SNF in memory of Mary A. Dracopoulos, sister of our late founder Stavros Niarchos.

The exhibit at the Museum of Koufonisi will run through September 30.