Rich Antiquity, Early Christian and Byzantine finds at excavation on Greek island of Kythnos

Α Decrease font Enlarge font
Rich Antiquity, Early Christian and Byzantine finds at excavation on Greek island of KythnosMonumental retaining wall of Classical Hellenistic times and rectangular spaces of Late Antiquity /Early Byzantine times (photo MOCAS)

Significant finds that feature an extensive early Christian church and early Byzantine installation, as well as monumental structures from an older ancient sanctuary have been unearthed by archaeologists on the rocky islet ‘Vryokastraki’ – opposite the ancient city of Vryokastro on the island of Kythnos.

The consecration case carved into the rock (photo: Ministry of Culture and Sports /MOCAS)

 

According to an announcement issued by the Greek Culture Ministry on Thursday, the later proto-Byzantine activity was intense and seriously disrupted the older buildings dating back to antiquity, with the partly-ruined ancient remains scavenged to build many walls and spaces in later structures.

The cover of the consecration case and the layer with fragments of Early Byzantine pottery (photo: MOCAS)


The ancient sanctuary

On the islet’s southern upper plateau, a nearly 22m long monumental terrace was located, which can be dated to classical times, both by its isodomic masonry and pottery collected inside a layer of “gravel” which is part of its structure. The findings include excellent quality ceramics of the geometric and archaic eras, as well as some findings of an undoubtedly votive nature (miniature vases, clay female figurines et al). At a distance of 5 meters east of the terrace, the carved rock forms a rectangular outcrop of approximately 11×4m, highly eroded today, which appears to be a monumental altar. The terrace forms a 4.50m high platform, west of which the natural rock forms a spacious terrace with numerous traces of ancient carvings, some of which appear to be related to a monumental temple which had obviously been established here. Careful study of these carvings may perhaps help to clarify to some extent the form of the classical-Hellenistic temple. The identity of the deity worshipped here remains unknown for the time being.

Part of the lead cup in the conservation process (photo: MOCAS)

Human activity in the Early Byzantine period was intense and the earlier buildings have been greatly disturbed. Numerous walls and ample spaces partially utilized the somewhat ruined ancient structures. Later pottery dates to the end of the 6th and first half of the 7th century AD. Following this period the city of Kythnos appears to have been abandoned and its inhabitants moved to the Castle of Oria, the island’s medieval capital.

Lead cup in situ (photo: MOCAS).

 

The intensive Early Byzantine use of the islet, where the city seems to have been restricted, lasted until at least the 7th century when it was abandoned, as can also be seen from the findings investigated at the other two sites.

Bronze collared jar in the conservation process (photo: MOCAS)


The long Building 2 and the fortifications

The coastal fortifications of Late Antiquity protected the weak eastern part of the islet. The other sides were inaccessible due to vertical rock formations. On the inside of the fortifications were numerous successive rectangular areas, in one of which was found a bronze follis coin of Emperor Maurice Tiberius (582-602). Investigation a little further north revealed the main entrance to the fortification, possibly protected by a tower. The Late Antiquity fortifications are built on earlier, probably archaic ones joined by areas partially carved into the natural rock. A few finds (ceramics and obsidian tools) of the Early Cycladic period came from backfills, as well as significant quantities of pottery from the Geometric to Roman times.

Bronze collared jar in situ (photo: MOCAS)


Three-aisled basilica

The excavation of the interior of the three-aisled Early Christian basilica, on a higher terrace, but on an axis with the entrance of the Early Byzantine fortifications was concluded this year. Seen on the church’s almost square plan, the sanctuary apse protrudes to the east.

 

Bronze follis coin of Maurice Tiberius (582-602) from Area IB of Building 2(end of 6th c) (photo: MOCAS)

 

The outer entrances open onto the lateral walls of the narthex, as the ground was raised on the west. The different levels of the floor in the basilica are due to soil morphology.

Bronze follis coin of Maurice Tiberius (582-602) from Area IB of Building 2(end of 6th c) (photo: MOCAS)


Each aisle had direct access to the narthex.

Woman’s headless torso from a seated clay figurine of the classical era from the sanctuary (photo: MOCAS)

 

The church has buildings to the north and south, of which the northern one was investigated, which had direct access to the church’s interior. The monument has a complex building history which includes three main phases. Indicative of these is the one in which alternating pillars and columns were used to separate the aisles and the last where the intercolumniation was sealed leaving small passages between the aisles. 

Fragments of geometric vases from the region of the sanctuary (photo: MOCAS)


Preserved in situ is the presbytery partition as well as parts of the architectural decoration.

Marble table and lead cup in situ (photo: MOCAS)

 

Marble members had been used as spolia on the building; wall cladding of ancient monuments, pedestals, the volute of an Ionic column capital possibly from archaic times, and two fragments of a table support ending in a lion’s foot.

Fragments of archaic vases from the region of the sanctuary (photo: MOCAS)

 

An open clay vessel was found in the south aisle in contact with the Presbytery partition. Two surviving fragmentary inscriptions were found in the narthex, one in the stoichedon style of the early 4th century BC the other engraved on tabula ansata, of the 1st century AD, commemorating either Emperor Vespasian or Domitian.

View of the sanctuary apse with part of the layer of fragmented vessels from the consecration case under the paved floor (photo: MOCAS)

 

A synthronon with a bishop’s throne is formed in the apse. Important finds were also uncovered from the Iero Vima movable and immovable equipment:  a small marble column,  a marble circular table, part of an iron cross, a bronze cantharus shaped oil lamp with chain of the second half of the 6th c.-early 7th c. and a long-stemmed lead cup with engraved decoration.

Two fragments of the marble table support (photo: MOCAS)

 

Α layer of fragmented Early Byzantine vessels were unearthed from underneath the apse’s damaged floor: small stout pots with a keel shaped outline, dating probably to the 5th century, the funnel-shaped rim of a circular amphora of the Late Roman Amphora 2 type, but mainly numerous fragments from the bodies of cylindrical amphorae of the Late Roman Amphora 1 type with grooved decoration dating mainly to the 6th and early 7th century, which seem to determine the terminus ante quem of the basilica’s construction.

Basilica’s south aisle. ‟Case” with marble spolia (the table support among them) and a large clay basin in situ (photo: MOCAS)


Beneath this layer and on the church’s longitudinal axis, a small rectangular carving was unearthed in the natural rock in the form of a case covered by a slab. This is obviously the church’s consecration case since inside it was discovered a tubular lead object whose content is now being investigated. The basilica had been functioning until the 7th century at least, but its later use cannot be ruled out.

Volute of an Ionic column capital from the east end of the basilica’s north aisle (photo: MOCAS)

 

Excavations on the islet were carried out this year from June 24 to August 3. The excavation program is carried out by the University of Thessaly, headed by Professor of Classical Archaeology Alexandros Mazarakis Ainian, in collaboration with the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Cyclades, headed by Dr. Dimitris Athanasoulis. The excavations are funded by the University of Thessaly, the Secretariat General for the Aegean and Island Policy and Athanasios Martinos.

Marble lid with cross from the east end of the basilica’s north aisle (photo: MOCAS)

Tornos
  1. 21/01 04:43

    Prime Minister Mitsotakis meets delegation of Greek-Armenian community

  2. 21/01 04:39

    Institutions’ reps coming to Athens for the 5th post-memorandum evaluation

  3. 21/01 03:43

    AP: Greek tennis star Tsitsipas beats Caruso at Australian Open (video)

  4. 20/01 23:12

    ESM's Chief: Greek economy doing better than expected

  5. 20/01 23:08

    Many Greek restaurant and tavern owners prefer smoking ban stopped

  6. 20/01 21:02

    Greece and France agree on plan over migrant and refugee issue

  7. 20/01 19:55

    Winners of 2nd UNWTO tourism startup competition announced in Spain

  8. 20/01 19:48

    Germany “understands and shares” Greece's worries over Turkey-Libya MoU

  9. 20/01 17:36

    GNTO President Angela Gerekou: For Greece tourism is identical to hospitality

  10. 20/01 15:26

    Cyprus wants more cruise ships serviced at port of Limassol

  11. 20/01 15:22

    Photo show on Veria's flowering peach tree festival in city of Thessaloniki

  12. 20/01 13:17

    UNWTO: International tourism growth continues to outpace the global economy

  13. 20/01 11:13

    Registered unemployment on the rise in Greece during December 2019

  14. 20/01 09:52

    PM meets with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos II

  15. 19/01 15:10

    Marine Tourism: Adorable seal pups rescued and ready to return to Greek waters

  16. 19/01 15:05

    First-ever Vasilopita celebration at St. Photios National Shrine in Florida

  17. 19/01 15:00

    Greece to relocate some 100 unescorted refugee children to neighboring Serbia

  18. 19/01 14:54

    AHEPA helps in building bridges between Greece, Israel and Cyprus through Athens

  19. 19/01 14:46

    Greece records largest drop in house prices and rents in Europe during last 12 years

  20. 19/01 14:39

    Weather records announced in Greece during 2019

  21. 19/01 14:29

    Mayor of Kalamata invites visitors to Greek city in interview with TNH

  22. 19/01 14:22

    Greek Alternate Foreign Minister in Brussels on Sunday for IHRA conference

  23. 19/01 12:13

    The National Herald releases special guide on Tourism in Greece for 2020

  24. 19/01 10:05

    Greek PM speaks with European Council and European Commission chiefs

  25. 19/01 04:49

    U.S Embassy in Athens closed for Martin Luther Day on Monday

  26. 18/01 14:35

    Leadership 100 Conference to announce full program on February 20-23

  27. 18/01 14:24

    “Dublin is dead,” EU’s VP Schinas informs Greek Parliament

  28. 18/01 14:12

    Giannis Antetokounmpo and partner Mariah throw party for baby ‘Greek Freak’

  29. 18/01 14:03

    UK assures it will not deport unregistered EU citizens after Brexit

  30. 18/01 13:53

    Grant Thornton: Optimism grows among entrepreneurs in Greece

  31. 18/01 13:45

    Ferries' routes to Naxos and Mykonos islands approved by Greek shipping ministry

  32. 18/01 13:36

    Spectacular annual Easter rocket war in Chios under threat as organizers fold

  33. 18/01 13:36

    Spectacular annual Easter rocket war in Chios under threat as organizers fold

  34. 18/01 11:26

    Minister: Plans for Greece's transition to post-lignite era ready by end-June

  35. 17/01 21:31

    PM: Greece will veto Libya solution by EU if MoUs with Turkey are not revoked

  36. 17/01 19:29

    Record tourist arrivals in Cyprus during December and all of 2019

  37. 17/01 19:23

    Survey: Brexit a good time for Greece to ask for Parthenon Sculptures back

  38. 17/01 19:16

    Renovated Greek National Gallery of Art to reopen in Athens during 2021

  39. 17/01 18:58

    Bank of Greece: Realty prices are on a rise

  40. 17/01 18:53

    Onassis Stegi: Culture start-ups present ideas at innovation meetup in Athens

  41. 17/01 18:46

    Ministers: Environment and climate crisis a top issue for the Greek government

  42. 17/01 18:37

    Greece among top-25 countries to raise children in the world

  43. 17/01 18:05

    Greek and Moroccan FMs share their concerns over the situation in Libya

  44. 17/01 18:01

    Greek Minister in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development meeting

  45. 17/01 17:54

    Revenues from ”Tsitsipas Souvlaki” to be donated to Australian wildfire victims

  46. 17/01 17:44

    Albanian artist presents his artwork at Cultural Centre of Ioannina in Epirus

  47. 17/01 17:22

    EBRD proposals to slow down ‘overtourism’ on iconic Greek island of Santorini

  48. 17/01 17:03

    Greek artist to present creative origami fashion in Athens and Thessaloniki

  49. 17/01 16:55

    "Eastern Railway Egnatia" project back to the spotlight in Greece

  50. 17/01 16:01

    Greek budget recorded a primary surplus of €5.5 billion during 2018

  51. 17/01 15:36

    Foreign Minister: Libyan Commander Haftar agreed with all Greek points

  52. 17/01 15:21

    New asylum policy is the new Greek Migration Ministry's priority

  53. 17/01 14:43

    European Commission VP: Greece has already succeeded in the field of tourism

  54. 17/01 12:17

    NYPL central Manhattan branch to reopen as Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library

  55. 17/01 12:07

    PM: EU NSRF funding delivers fertile growth opportunity for Greek economy

  56. 17/01 10:51

    EU invests €1 trillion to make its economy more ecology-friendly

  57. 17/01 01:33

    6th Peloponnisos International Documentary Festival in Kalamata (video)

  58. 17/01 01:26

    New Greek Migration Ministry to accelerate international agreements (video)

  59. 17/01 00:47

    Onassis USA and the New Museum’s NEW INC announce ONX Studio in NYC

  60. 17/01 00:36

    Religious Tourism: Feast Day of Agios Antonios celebrated today in Greece

  61. 17/01 00:21

    Climbing Tourism: Female Greek mountaineer conquers 7 top peaks on Earth

  62. 17/01 00:16

    Aegean Airlines announces record passenger traffic during 2019

  63. 16/01 23:56

    9th edition of Gameathlon returns to Tae Kwon Do stadium in Athens

  64. 16/01 23:42

    UNWTO concludes International Tourism Marketing project for Yunnan

  65. 16/01 23:12

    PM meets board of Greek-American and American-Jewish organisations

  66. 16/01 19:37

    "West of Athens" shows travellers at Athens Airport a taste of the capital's history

  67. 16/01 18:16

    Etihad Airways announces return flights from Australia to Greece from $1,150

  68. 16/01 16:57

    US Ambassador for religious freedom to visit Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul

  69. 16/01 16:02

    Greek tourism: Average spending per trip increases by €61 during 2019

  70. 16/01 13:29

    Media: Rejected Hard Rock won’t give up contest for Hellenikon casino

  71. 16/01 12:12

    UNWTO joins support of Albania's post-earthquake recovery effort

  72. 16/01 11:17

    ITB Berlin and IPK contrast travel trends in the Americas

  73. 16/01 10:07

    Hellenic Caucus co-chairs meets with United Nations Special Representative for Cyprus

  74. 16/01 00:29

    After Hard Rock's bid, Mohegan advances for Hellenikon Casino license in Athens

  75. 16/01 00:18

    Olive Oil Symposium at the center of the ancient world in Delphi

  76. 16/01 00:08

    Minister: National Archaeological Museum in Athens to get major overhaul

  77. 15/01 23:47

    New record volume of traffic at Greek airports during 2019

  78. 15/01 23:30

    Congressman: Greek Prime Minister hit a home run in United States visit

  79. 15/01 23:09

    Associated Press: Cyprus repays crisis-era IMF loan ahead of schedule

  80. 15/01 22:49

    Greek Culture Minister meets with National Art Museum of China director

  81. 15/01 21:40

    Greek ferry firms competing over popular routes

  82. 15/01 21:13

    Visitors and revenues in museums and archaeological sites grow in Greece

  83. 15/01 21:06

    Insider: Greece among world’s top destination for 2020 (video)

  84. 15/01 20:44

    Religious Tourism: Greek Orthodox Epiphany marked in Sydney (video)

  85. 15/01 20:32

    Greek PM proposes for first time top female judge for President of Republic

  86. 15/01 17:32

    Heads of new migration and asylum ministry sworn in Greece

  87. 15/01 16:46

    Greek group to construct shipping waste treatment plant in United Arab Emirates

  88. 15/01 14:31

    Vote Athens for Europe’s Best Destination for 2020

  89. 15/01 14:17

    Greek state budget recorded a primary surplus of €4.96 billion in 2019

  90. 15/01 14:05

    Greek Premier receives Tourism Ministry leadership at Maximos Mansion

  91. 15/01 11:36

    Greece's golden visa program attracts investments of €2 billion

  92. 14/01 20:09

    Cretan artists' show with Nederlands Blazers Ensemble in Amsterdam (videos)

  93. 14/01 20:04

    UNWTO at FITUR 2020: Focus on sustainability, innovation and accessibility

  94. 14/01 19:36

    American Hellenic Institute announces six new members of Board of Directors

  95. 14/01 19:29

    State Department denies mediation initiative on Greek-Turkish relations

  96. 14/01 19:09

    Greek farmers switch from tobacco to stevia cultivation for sweet tooths

  97. 14/01 18:53

    Minister: Greek government has a comprehensive plan for refugees

  98. 14/01 18:47

    First cookies baked in space return to Earth

  99. 14/01 17:24

    5th edition of Hellas Film Box Berlin 2020 returns from January 15-19

  100. 14/01 17:01

    Greek PM begins ministries meetings' round with Tourism Ministry