Ellenika Archaeological area

The road west from Psathi passes through cuttings in the volcanic earth with brilliant striations of orange and dark red, and enters a landscape where, among the variety of colours of earth, white and pale green predominate. At Aliki (2.5km) is a small salt-pan, which fills in the spring and dries in summer; there is some fresh water and a break of shade for the beach. The landscape around is filled with odd outcrops of eroded rock sheltering stone crofts in their lea, which are well-camouflaged and often bursting with cactus trees.
Beyond Aliki the road becomes a track and drops down to the western shore of the island at Dekas and Mavrospi­lia Bays, which look across to the north coast of Milos. Their sandy beaches are in effect two parts of the same bay, divided in the middle by a small promontory of pumice which falters and fragments into needles of rock standing in the water: in antiquity it formed a continuity of land, joining the off-shore islet of Daskaleio, or Aghios Andreas, to the main island. This was the site of Ancient Kimolos—an area referred to today as Ellenika. Subsidence and erosion have meant that the main site of the ancient city lies under the water between the promontory and the islet, leaving only the area of the cemeteries on shore. The islet of Aghios Andreas may have been the site of a sanctuary of Athena Polias which, according to a Hellenistic inscription found on Euboea, was the principal place of cult on Kimolos. When James Theodore Bent visited Daskaleio in 1882 he wrote that the islet ‘was covered with ancient houses, broken statues, and graves at the bottom of the sea; as we rowed across we could distinctly see a lovely sarcophagus, which the boatmen told us they had often tried but never succeeded in raising’. Some trace of these remains is to be seen on the surface of the islet today, but most have been buried. A number of eroded grave-loculi can be made out in the friable rock on the very tip of the promontory opposite, and the foundations of walls can be seen in the shallow water along the shore.

A Mycenaean cemetery and vase-sherds from the 13th century bc indicate that there was also a passing Bronze Age presence here. The most remarkable finds, however, are from the Geometric Age—20 cremation burials, containing over 200 vases of the 9th and 8th centuries bc. They constitute one of the richest collections of Geometric pottery found so far in the Cyclades. A number of rare grave stelai in volcanic stone of the same period (c. 700 bc) have also been found; they are part carved, and were possibly part-painted originally, depicting figures with arms in positions which are coincidentally reminiscent of Cycladic figurines. The cemeteries around the bays continued to be used through the Classical and Hellenistic periods.

The Bay of Mavrospi­lia (‘black cave’) takes its name from the cave at its far northern end. Walking towards this, Theodore Bent found buried in the sand a ‘well-formed glazed kylix, which gladdened our hearts and sent us on our way rejoicing’.

 

Kimolos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.

 

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