Archaeologists Investigating The Greek Island Of Keros Discover The Start Of An Urban Base 4,000 Years Ago

Cycladic sculptures constructed of marble on this island once inspired Pablo Picasso and a host of other visionary artists.

Archaeological evidence on the Greek island of Keros is examined.
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Cycladic sculptures constructed of marble on this island once inspired Pablo Picasso and a host of other visionary artists.

The Tiny Greek island of Keros is easily distinguished from other neighboring islands by its natural and majestic pyramid shape, but 4,000 years ago white stone was brought in to be placed on its surface after workers had completely carved out the island, making it appear like a sparkling white beacon that could be easily spotted holding court high over the Aegean Sea.

Aside from the immense amount of work it would have taken to have carved out this unique island of paradise, archaeologists have just recently uncovered what they believe was the start of an urban base here thousands of years ago, including evidence of extremely complicated metalworking along with drainage tunnels.

The evidence of the sophisticated drainage tunnels may have initially startled archaeologists, especially considering that these would have been designed and built at least 1,000 years before plumbing was first introduced to the palace of Knossos, Crete’s Minoan residence made famous in Homer’s Odyssey.

“Among their cities is the great city of Cnosus, where Minos reigned when nine years old, he that held converse with great Zeus.”

Dhaskalio is another island situated along the west coast of Keros and was connected to it 4,500 years ago, when sea levels were much lower than they are currently. While Dhaskalio has been deemed a sacred and protected site and is no longer inhabited today, it once shared in past glories with its neighbor Keros due to the causeway that attached the two islands.

In keeping with the many unique rituals that were practiced on Keros, thousands of Cycladic sculptures constructed out of marble have been previously recovered by archaeologists working with the University of Cambridge, as well as the Cyprus Institute and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades.

These sculptures are well known to have been a huge inspiration for numerous artists like Pablo Picasso. Interestingly, these marble sculptures were deliberately smashed in other places and specifically carried to Keros so they could be buried on the island in what was probably a ritual at the time.

The island of Dhaskalio 4,500 years ago was completely covered with buildings, and archaeological evidence attests to the fact that survival here meant that materials for metalworking, along with food, would mainly have been brought in from other neighboring regions as the island would not have allowed its residents to be sufficient on their own.

According to The Guardian, many objects discovered for use in metalworking have been found in two workshops which were covered in debris, including a mold with which to fashion daggers made of copper, shards of ceramic that would have been used for equipment that produced metals, and an axe made out of copper.

As the University of Cambridge’s Michael Boyd attested, “What we are seeing here with the metalworking and in other ways is the beginnings of urbanization.”

As far as what meals the residents of Keros and Dhaskalio would have eaten, an examination of soil on the islands reveals evidence of figs, grapes, pulses, olives, almonds, and different cereals that would have been made using barley and wheat.

The Cyprus Institute’s Evi Margaritis explained that because the vast majority of the foods would have been imported, archaeologists would have to rethink the idea of networks in the region 4,000 years ago.

“Much of this food was imported: in the light of this evidence we need to reconsider what we know about existing networks to include food exchange.”

With such a wealth of materials to examine on Keros and Dhaskalio, archaeologists are continuing their work on the Greek islands and are currently recording their discoveries digitally so that they will have three-dimensional models of objects recovered.