Kyra Panaghia

Kyra Panaghia, 12km to the northeast, is thought possibly to have born the name Halonnesos in Antiquity—one of several possible candidates for the name. There is some surface water and the island is consequently covered in dense maquis, with breaks of Quercus coccifera (the Kerm or Holly oak) in the interior. The large monastery of the Nativity of the Virgin, first founded in the 16th century, lies on the island’s east coast. During the course of the last century the monastery and its agricultural production dwindled and were finally abandoned, but then taken in hand and restored in the last decade. It is now undergoing a revival and is inhabited almost year round. On the western side of the island is the deep bay of Aghios Petros. Its entrance is partially closed by the island of Phangrou, where another important Classical shipwreck, with a cargo of wine amphorae, similar in many respects to the Peristera wreck, has been found and explored. In the east ern portion of the bay, the earliest excavated Neolithic settlement in the Aegean (5th millennium bc) has been uncovered (1970/71). (See ‘Aghios Petros etc.’ Nikos Efstratiou, B.A.R. International Series, #241:1985). The site yielded important pottery and distinctive clay figurines. The finds showed the remarkable and unexpected degree of organisation and productivity of the vital culture which evolved in this archipelago in prehistoric times.

Gioura, further to the northeast, has revealed an even earlier human presence, c. 9000–6000 bc. Excavations in the floor of the ‘Cyclops Cave’ (1992–96) in the interior of the south of the island have yielded, from the deepest strata, beautifully fashioned fish-hooks from animal bones (now in the Volos Archaeological Museum), together with bones and skeletons of large fish showing that the technology of fishing was already mastered at this early date. Evidence also suggests that animal husbandry (pigs, goats and sheep) was practised by the early part of this period. There are many caves and unusual limestone phenomena on Gioura: the mythical association with the Cyclops may have grown up around a curious and large circular perforation which completely pierces a scarp of rock about 40m above water-level. The forehead-shaped bulge of rock has the uncanny appearance of a gigantic brow with a single central eye. Gioura’s impressive rock faces are home to a variety of unique chasmophytes or cliff-growing plants, including the very rare, endemic sandwort Arenaria phitosiana. Other rarities include Campanula reiseri; a scabious, Scabiosa hymetta; and a dwarf fritillary with dark purple flower, Fritillaria sporadum. About 500 examples of an endemic species of goat, Capra aegagrus, similar to the Cretan kri-kri but a little larger, roam the island.

Kyra Panagia Island is part of the Lesser Sporades Island Group, Greece.

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