[Excavations in 2014-18 have revealed an important Early and Middle Bronze Age settlement on Daskalio islet (formerly a peninsula on the W end of Keros) with metal-working establishments, a stairway, hydraulic features, petroglyphs, and many other signs of relatively sophisticated culture.] Across the water from Koufonisi is the island of Keros (visits only with permit from the Greek Archaeological Service) whose mountainous profile closes this ‘inland sea' to the east. Keros is uninhabited and used mostly for goat pasturing and bee-keeping. The island's fame rests on its integral role in the world of Early Cycladic culture and on the extraordinary quantity of finds of marble figurines and objects made, above all at Kavos, and at the island's western extremity at Daskalio, which though an islet now, was a rocky promontory of the main island in the Early Bronze Age. Between a quarter and a third of the existing body of known Cycladic marble figurines in the world today comes from one source on the island of Keros. This was first discovered in secret around 1958, and by the time that archaeology's most prominent student of Cycladic culture, Colin Renfrew, came to Keros in 1963 much of the material had already been looted and illegally exported, and the archaeological context of the finds irreparably disturbed. The looted pieces, which found their way into collections, private and public, around the world in the 1960s and 70s, have come to be known as the ‘Keros hoard'. When in July 1990 a number of them, collected by Hans Erlenmayer of the University of Basel, were put on sale at Sotheby's in London, they became the object of a court injunction inspired by the Greek Government and of a public appeal by Professor Renfrew to Lord Gowrie, then chairman of the auction house, for the sale not to go ahead. It did in the end and over half of the pieces were purchased by the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art and are now on view in Athens. The nature of the find presented many anomalies, however: previously such pieces had been found in graves by and large, but on Keros no cemetery with human remains had yet been found: only evidence of a Bronze Age settlement on the islet of Daskalio, opposite where the hoard had been located. The pieces were nearly all broken, and their fragmentary condition was generally ascribed to the looters. Colin Renfrew doubted this, however, and observing the lack of joinable fragments, as well as the weathered character of the fractured surfaces, hypothesised that they must have been deposited already in a broken condition. The variety of marble and pottery pieces furthermore suggested that they had been brought from sources on different islands to this one deposit on Keros.
In 2006, excavations at the site of Daskalio-Kavos by Renfrew and Olga Philaniotou, unearthed a new, undisturbed deposit of pottery, rich in marble figurines and bowls coming from diverse origins. Once again the systematic breakages confirmed what Renfrew had suggested, namely that the material appeared to have been broken before being buried—a curious state of affairs with no parallel occurrences in the ancient world before or after. It seems therefore, that as early as 2,500 BC, an important ritual centre which may have functioned as a focus for the whole region was established on Keros—almost as if it were a ‘sacred island' in the manner that Delos was to become in later history; and at this ‘sanctuary' fragments of figurines and other objects, which had been broken either elsewhere or in a ritual at the site, were buried in large caches. Two of the most striking finds from Keros are the ‘musicians'—a standing flute-player and a seated harp-player (now in the National Museum, Athens), both found in a single grave. These alone are sufficient to show that we are looking at the very origins of a long tradition of Western sculpture in these anonymous artists of 4,500 years ago. Chronique des Fouilles linkWikidata ID: Q65237208
Info: McGilchrist's Greek Islands
(From McGilchrist’s Greek Islands, © Nigel McGilchrist 2010, excerpted with his gracious permission. Click for the books)