The Small Cycladic Islands Project is a diachronic archaeological survey of several small, currently uninhabited islands, located in the Cyclades, Greece. The project aims to better understand the role of these islands in the long-term history and archaeology of the Cyclades. Despite the fact that the islands now are uninhabited, such places would have played a variety of roles at different points in the past. In the initial colonization of the Aegean Basin, tiny islands provided important stepping stones on the way to more sizable landforms. Small islands also served as cemeteries, maritime strongholds, sanctuaries, pirate hideaways, or goat islands

In 2019 surface investigations focused on the multi-method, comparative documentation of the islets, revealing oscillating patterns of use and non-use from prehistory to the present. As a collaboration between the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Cyclades, the Norwegian Institute in Athens, and Carleton College, this three-year project (2019-2021) is undertaking archaeological surveys of several islands in the vicinity of Paros and Antiparos; Sifnos, Serifos, Kythnos; and Mykonos, Syros, Tinos, and Andros. A variety of human activity was recorded on these islands, ranging in date from prehistory to the present.

Human presence has been documented in the Cyclades as early as the Middle Paleolithic period. Permanent populations have been present since the Neolithic, and intense inter-island relations from the Early Bronze Age. These relationships have been studied extensively with respect to prehistory, and increasingly for the Classical period and Byzantine times. Yet the smallest islands in this network are little understood. Such places have much potential for the study of early seafaring and the connectivity of island life, as well as in developing an archaeology of marginal places and uninhabited spaces.

While certain of these islands had been documented before, a wealth of new information was revealed through more detailed survey, artifact collection, and study. More detailed information about the nature of human activity in all of these islands will come from further research, but already we can tell that there is a rich and varied, if incidental, history of engagement with these diverse island landscapes.



In 2018 the Norwegian Institute at Athens conducted the first season of a 5-year (2018-2022) project of archaeological excavations at the site of Gourimadi in southern Euboea, Greece. The project is organized under the aegis of the Norwegian Institute of Athens with a permit from the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports. The project is directed by Dr. Zarko Tankosic and co-directed by Drs. Fanis Mavridis and Paschalis Zafeiriadis.

Topographic map of Gourimadi (Author: Denitsa Nenova)

The site of Gourimadi is located in southern part of the island of Euboea, near the Katsaronio village, c. 6 km from the modern town of Karystos. The site was discovered during an earlier survey of the area (Norwegian Archaeological Survey in the Karystia, NASK) and immediately recognized as important, based on the composition of the artifacts collected from its surface (e.g., large quantities of obsidian including more than 50 projectile points, pottery that indicated the existence of multiple chronological strata, metallurgical remains in form of small quantities of slag and an excellently preserved bronze axe, etc.). Particularly in chronological terms, the surface pottery scatter indicated the habitation at the site during the final Neolithic-Early Bronze Age I (FN-EBA, respectively) transition, which is elusive both in the Karystia and the Aegean. The location of the site was also indicative of its importance, as it forms a natural hillfort with excellent vistas of not only all access routes but also of the entire region, including most sections of southern Euboea, east Attica, and the northern Cycladic islands of Andros, Tinos, Giaros, and Kea.

According to the size of the archaeological material surface scatter, the maximum extent of the site is c. 4 ha, although it is likely that the actual subsurface remains cover a somewhat smaller area. The site extends on the summit and north, west, and south slopes of a natural rock (schist) outcrop called locally Gourimadi, which means ‘large rock’ in the local Arvanitika dialect. In terms of surface artifact density, the southern slopes, especially those below the main summit of the hill, is where we encountered the thickest concentrations of the material during the survey, followed by the summit and the western and northern slopes.

In 2018 season we began the excavation of two trenches: trench 1 (7X4m) covering the top of the summit and trench 2 (4X4m) on the southern section of the summit, in the area where the ground begins to slope.



309715_270067999703328_109569782419818_747078_956228222_nRemains of the church complex from the south. Photo: David Hill

The Norwegian Naxos survey started in October 2010 with a campaign to survey and record the archaeology of Kastro Apalirou: The fortified mountain town that might have functioned as the capital of Naxos in the mid to late Byzantine periods. The project is a collaboration (synergasia) between the Norwegian Institute (University of Oslo) and the Ephorate of Antiquities for the Cyclades. The project is also joined by teams from the Universities of Newcastle and Edinburgh.

About the project
The survey focuses on how economic and political changes can be seen in the landscape, and in particular the changes that occurred from the Middle Byzantine period (565 -1081 AD) to the Venetian period (1206-mid 16th century AD).

The main objective of the survey is to map and document Kastro Apalirou and to understand the relationship between settlement patterns, political authority and the economy of the island. The first task is to document the extant remains on Kastro Apalirou, which are made up of a fortified circuit wall, over 40 cisterns some of which are exceptionally large, a religious-complex, and numerous buildings. The main structures have been recorded by total station survey, and a plan of the site has been built up. A photographic survey has been made and extensive field notes have also been taken. In order to understand the function and form of the kastro there are several questions concerning the political, administrative and religious structure of Naxos that need to be answered. What functions did Apalirou have? Was it a refuge for the secular elite in times of threat? Or was it settled over longer periods? Was Apalirou a defensive site for Naxos alone? Or did it perform a wider role in the Cyclades? Whilst the main objective and focus is Kastro Apalirou we intend to expand our field work to the surrounding landscape and create a laboratory of historical and archaeological research on the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages.

The island of Naxos in the Cyclades has for long been renowned for its rich Byzantine heritage, and in particular the numerous, decorated churches. The settlement pattern of Byzantine Naxos has been far less studied, although some important centers have for long been known and structures are indeed still visible. In 2010 an archaeological team from The Museum of Cultural History and the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History at the University of Oslo initiated a pioneer project of mapping and documentation of the most important of these centers, Kastro Apalirou.

In the aftermath of the 4th Crusade, the Venetian Marco Sanudo in 1206 or 1207 landed on Naxos and immediately laid siege to what seems to have been the main Byzantine fortress on the island, Kastro Apalirou.After a five-week siege, Sanudo conquered the site, took over the island and later expanded his realm to the neighboring islands to create a Venetian and Catholic Duchy in the central Cyclades. The Venetian conquest was followed by a feudal reorganization of the islands.
picture4When Kastro Apalirou was founded as the main fortified centre on Naxos is another and far more difficult question to answer. Since it is evident that this fortified hilltop site in the interior is far easier to defend than any coastal settlements on Naxos, a foundation in the 7. – century AD seems possible, at a time when the Byzantine empire had largely lost her supremacy at sea. Raiding and piracy grew out of control and as a consequence many coastal regions and islands in the Aegean were depopulated and left deserted until stable conditions returned.

Read more at the website of the University of Oslo.



cropped-norwinst_fb8.jpgA program or research consisting of an archaeological diachronic surface survey of the
Katsaronio Plain, located north-west of the town of Karystos. The project lasted from 2012 to 2016 and is in the study and publication phase as of 2017.

10460637_733652126699747_2654484285747004749_oThe Norwegian Archaeological Survey in the Karystia was a five-year long project of systematic archaeological investigation in the Karystia, which is the part of southern Euboea centered on the modern town of Karystos. The long-term goal of the project was to record and reconstruct the cultural landscapes in the Karystia and the ways the landscape was constructed, lived in, and used by people inhabiting the Karystia in the past, from the prehistoric times to the present. The Katsaronio plain was hitherto virtually unknown in archaeological terms, since very little research has been done there in the past. The primary objectives of the project were to explore the long-term connection between people and the landscape they inhabit and to gather evidence that reflects the past (particularly prehistoric) sociopolitical organization of Karystian communities and their access to and management of agricultural resources. Additionally, the project included the search for evidence for the earliest known (Late Neolithic) settlement of the area and it also10519774_747762008600589_2834110795321667729_n functioned as an informal field school where students of archaeology and classics from Norway and elsewhere can obtain field experience. More than 100 students, volunteers, and professional archaeologists from Norway and more than a dozen other countries have taken part in this project.

NASK was organized as an intensive diachronic pedestrian surface survey. The entire 11391514_932976706767287_5090176692072239531_ntarget area of approximately 20 square kilometers was surveyed by team members spaced ten meters apart, assuring maximum coverage and accuracy. Concentrations of archaeological materials (termed findspots), features (immovable objects such as walls, pits, wells), significant natural resources (e.g., springs), and individual finds of any kind (e.g., pottery, chipped and polished stone, metals, etc.) were recorded using a GPS device and their location and other information associated with them (i.e., their context) is entered into a database, which was analyzed using GIS software. Special attention is given to findspots, as likely surface indications of buried archaeological sites; all findspots were surveyed in greater detail for evidence of differential spatial distribution of certain kinds of artifacts and/or features. The project introduced the use of Android-based tablets to the survey to excellent results in terms of speed and recording accuracy.

The project managed to discover and record 99 new archaeological sites in the 20 sq km13417520_1132191603512462_8886380006694148901_n survey area. The sites range in date from the Final Neolithic to Ottoman and in size from a handful of sherds and lithics to massive concentrations of archaeological artifacts and features spread over several hectares. The project also discovered sites that will likely be explored in the future through archaeological excavation (e.g. Gourimadi prehistoric site).

For some images from the project, please visit its Facebook page. For any questions, please contact the project’s director, Dr. Zarko Tankosic.