© Stefanos

September 22, 2015

An Experience at Antikythera by Stefanos

Antikythera is unlike most Greek Islands, as it does not offer conventional beauty. It is a small, inhospitable rock, worn away by the wind and by the waves traveling from the Aegean Sea into the Mediterranean Sea; but therein lies its charm. It offers a kind of ragged tranquility, that I have not experienced anywhere else, a sense of complete disconnect from anything not Antikytherean. As soon as you step off the boat and unto the pier at Potamos, the island’s only port, you suddenly realize that this is not a place where your problems and worries can follow, a place with only 20 permanent residents and almost no tourist amenities or luxuries. There are only 3 beaches, Xiropotamos, Potamos, and Camarella, which are no more than 20 minutes walk from each other. At the moment there are two archaeological excavations taking place on and near the island, as well as a bird watching observatory for the migrating season.

Once, this small and almost deserted island was the home to nearly 800 people who lived a small, self-sustaining, community. During the Second World War, the inhabitants were deported by the occupying enemy forces, only to return a few months later but in significantly smaller numbers; causing the constant decline of the population ever since. Even though this is truly sad because the island has had such a peculiar history from antiquity up to modern, every summer it blooms back to life with over 300 people, from Antikythereans who live abroad, to explorers and scientists.

The two most important projects that are currently taking place on the island, are the maritime excavation of the world-famous shipwreck of Antikythera, as well as the excavation of the fortified pirate outpost that is located on the island. Since the shipwreck receives a lot of independent coverage, I’d like to shine some light on the latter. The “Kastro”, as it is known among the locals, operated as a pirate outpost from the late 4th century B.C, up until 69-67 B.C, when it was destroyed from the Roman campaign that dealt with piracy in the Mediterranean. In the past, there were 2 more excavations, one in the late 19th Century by Valerios Stais, the head of the National Museum of Archaeology of Athens, and in the early 20th century by Kostantinos Kourouniotis.

Every August since 1998, a team of archaeologists, volunteers, and students from all over the world, led by Archaeologist Aris Tsaravopoulos, ranging from 20 up to 50 members, excavates and studies the “Kastro”. The multi-national team excavates under the supervision of experienced archaeologists from the Greek Archaeological Service, where they are taught basic excavating techniques and theory, as well as receive a hand-on experience of the examination and the recording of the finds which range from pottery, to metal weaponry and coinage. This particular excavation operates in a very unusual way that allows people from all over the world with many different backgrounds, to gain a first-hand experience of the archaeological process that usually takes place behind closed doors, unseen by the public. Furthermore, even travellers that visit the site to learn about its history are encouraged to participate in the excavation, this year alone there were 3 tourists that were on vacation, who abandoned their previous plans and came back to Antikythera a few days later, to formally join the excavating team! It is a unique experience that in my opinion goes unmatched due to the isolation that the island offers, and the fact that the history and heritage of the island, from antiquity to modern times, is not just passively displayed, but you can actively take part in it and experience it first-hand.

Text and Photo Courtesy of Stefanos

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