(Adamas = 0.0km for distances in text)The inland branch-road from the junction just beyond the Museum of Mining, 1km east of Adamas, leads across to the north coast of the island and heads for Pollonia. At 5.8km, a track right leads down to the shore at the in let of Aghios Konstantinos, where a picturesque group of boat houses form a minuscule harbour in a shadeless, lunar landscape. Inland from the coast at this point, the presence of extensive industrial quarrying of bentonite is manifest in the massive terracing works along the hills to the south, where former quarries have been re-landscaped. The smaller kaolin quarrying galleries of former centuries can also be seen at a lower level, as for example by the roadside church dedicated to Aghios Ioannis Theologos, whose patronage of caves was here extended to man-made galleries.
   At 7.5km, the road passes a couple of small coves and drops into a shallow fertile valley, with the extensive ruins of * Phylakopi­ on the coastal bluff to the left. The site was first examined by the British School of Archaeology (Hogarth and Smith) in 1896–99, then subsequently in 1911, and again in 1974–77 under Colin Renfrew: excavations continue today. The remains of three successive Bronze Age cities were discovered. In the 2nd millennium bc, Phylakopi­ was one of the most important centres in the Aegean, based on its commerce of obsidian. It was a dominant presence in the area almost uninterruptedly for 1,000 years. Its importance today lies in what it has revealed both of the organisation of Bronze Age cities and, above all, of their cult.

The context and setting

Rainfall was higher than at present in the Bronze Age and would therefore have made the area to the south of Phylakopi­ substantially more fertile: sea-levels were also higher, making the harbours of the town deeper and more manage able. The sea, in fact, may have penetrated and encircled the town more on the east side increasing its defensibility. This is important because the choice of site is otherwise hard to explain: it is far from the two main obsidian deposits on the island, and stands on a coast exposed to the prevailing north winds, making outward navigation from the harbour much more difficult in certain seasons. The port was of primary importance since the city existed and grew on trade, mostly exporting obsidian and clays from the island. The first settlers on the hill, in the middle of the 3rd millennium bc, had commercial contacts with other centres of the Keros-Syros Cycladic culture.

The successive phases

The first organised settlement with its cemetery, Phylakopi­ I, dates from 2300–2000 bc. The subsequent centuries show a rapid enlargement of trading links, and Phylakopi­ II (2000–1600 bc)—the first point at which we can talk of a real ‘city’—is characterised by considerable refinement of pottery techniques and decorations, as well as increasing imports from Crete and from mainland Greece (grey Minyan ware). The city at this stage appears to have had no fortifications, and around 1600 bc it was destroyed by fire in an at tack. In the light of this experience it was rebuilt with sturdy fortification walls which vary between three and six metres in thickness. This is Phylakopi­ III (1600–1400 bc): a city which had a plan of parallel streets and rectangular dwells, sometimes of two floors, decorated with wall-paintings of predominantly Minoan inspiration. The pottery in this period acquires naturalistic designs figuring dolphins, birds and plants. The city was again destroyed c. 1400 bc, probably during Mycenaean expansion into the area from the mainland. Phylakopi­ IV (1400–1100 bc) represents the final phase. The fortifications were enlarged and reinforced, and a notable Mycenaean influence, seen both in the pottery and in the building of an imposing megaron and a sanctuary, replaces the earlier Minoan influence. Pottery is imported from several centres on the mainland and there is evidence of commercial links beyond the Aegean. The city was finally abandoned at the end of the 12th century bc at the time of the collapse of Mycenaean civilisation.

The site

It should be recalled that only a portion of the city has survived: erosion has carried away a good half of it into the sea. Even though Phylakopi­ is predominantly a specialist’s site, the informed visitor can enjoy a number of striking features. Entering from the south, the imposing scale of the walls, constructed in blocks of andesite and perlite in the customary harlequin of colours of Milos, stretch well-preserved to the left. The in-filled double curtain and bastions are visible; outside the southwest corner, the careful cutting and laying of the massive blocks can best be appreciated. Close to the wall, on the right as you approach from the south is the Mycenaean shrine (LH III A–C), which evolved through the 14th and 13th centuries bc, consisting of two wings separated by a paved court, with a stone bench and standing stone. This is where the tiny gold mask and the ‘Lady of Phylakopi­’ were found during the 1974–77 campaign of excavations (see ‘Museum’ above).
   On site it is often difficult to pick out the rectangular street plan of the settlement, which is so evident in aerial photographs; clearly visible on the ground, however, is the plan of the megaron, which lies close to the edge of the site to the northeast, recognisable by its massive threshold-block, in a veined black and red limestone, which must have measured almost 4m in length before it was sundered in two. To the side and in the interior are other massive construction elements, possibly door jambs, in a pale-green (bentonite) stone. The most unusual architectural elements at Phylakopi­ are the hexagonal basalt columns which occur naturally in the rock formations on the islet of Glaroni­si, in the bay a short distance out to sea: the phenomenon is similar to that which formed the ‘Giant’s Causeway’ in Northern Ireland. All the building material—though immensely varied— comes from the area around Phylakopi­ and none of it from more than about 3km away. It is not possible to say whether the various colours used had any particular significance to the ancient builders. Although the material is very eroded now, the attentive eye will find pieces which have nonetheless been cut very exactly. There is an impressive quantity of potsherd scatter, too.

Beyond Phylakopi­, the main road descends to Pollonia (10km), whose name would suggest that it was once the site of a sanctuary of Apollo. The attractive and protected harbour is the embarkation point for the five or six daily ferry-crossings to the island of Kimolos which fills the horizon ahead. From Pollonia a road branches southeast to the long beach of Voudia Bay (12km) on the eastern coast. Voudia is the site of the main plant and loading station for the Silver and Baryte Ores Mining Co. who work the large deposits and quarries inland of the promontory here. Taking the road south from Voudia to Migiokolo and Koufi­ and thence west across to the opposite coast, you pass through a landscape fashioned into deep gulfs by industrial quarrying; the slopes are stepped in bare terraces, descending through gashes of red and white and pale-green. The scale of the activity is daunting. These are bentonite quarries; on the promontory to the north of Voudia they are baryte quarries.

The minerals of Milos

Since Milos yields so many different earths and minerals, a word about what they are and what they are used for might be useful:

* Kaolin, or kaolinite, the most abundant, is found all over the island and has been extracted for the longest time of all the commodities other than obsidian—from Classical times right through to today. A silvery white, hydrous silicate of aluminium, it was used for medical purposes (compresses, healing wounds, disinfecting and drying sores) in Antiquity, and as a foundation for cosmetics—often in combination with haematite (another mineral found on Milos) so as to create a ‘rouge’. In the 18th century it experienced a great revival with the learning in Europe of the techniques of porcelain manufacture which came from the Far East. Today the particularly high quality of kaolinite from Milos is used as a filler in paper manufacture.
* Alunite, from which alum is produced, is found in the hills east of Zephyri­a, in the area of Lagada, and was extracted in Antiquity. It is a complex, crystalline sulphate of potassium and aluminium. It is not a common mineral but was much in demand both for medical uses and for its vitally important quality of fixing of dyes in textiles.
* Sulphur from the Palaiorema Gorge at the southeast corner of the island was also extracted in antiquity, and used both in dyeing technology and in medicine for skin conditions. Industrial mining began in 1862, when there was increasing demand for it in explosives, fertilisers, and the industrial applications of sulphuric acid.
* Manganese, which is found at the very north western tip of the island at Cape Vani, was extracted between 1871 and 1928, when it was in demand for the production of high tensile steel. The ore has a dark purple/black colour.
* Bentonite is found in both the west and the east of the island, but the largest deposits are in the area southwest of Voudia, recognisable by their pale green colour. It has been industrially mined since 1950. It is a water-bearing aluminium phyllosilicate, with a wide spectrum of uses: as fill and insulating in construction; as a filter for waste water and sewage; as a cleaner for recycling paper; and as a filler-lubricant in oil-drilling. It is also a constituent in cat-litter and in cosmetics.
* Perlite is found in the northern promontory of the island, north of Plaka, and in the central south area, west of the airport. As a light but strong stone it was used in past centuries as a building material which was easy to carve. Its distinguishing feature is its considerable degree of expansion when heated. Today it is exported in crushed form and then later expanded to create insulating material for ceilings. It is also used as filler in concretes and as an industrial abrasive.
* Baryte (or barite), found mostly on the Voudia promontory and in the area around Komia, is barium sulphate—a mineral remarkable for its ‘heavy density’ and slickness. It is used as a lubricant in oil-drilling, and in the manufacture of industrial paints. It is also an important constituent in motor car brake-linings. It has been mined on Milos since 1934.
In addition to these principal examples, commoner ones such as andesite for mill-stones and pumice for the polishing of statuary and mosaics, were extracted in antiquity; and salt and gypsum in the period of Ottoman rule. All these materials are the gift of Milos’s extraordinary volcanic history. In earliest times, the obsidian deposits put the island at the very centre of Aegean trade; since then, these other minerals in different periods have continued and maintained that commercial importance. Their extraction has given employment and created wealth, even though it has not brought the lasting prosperity to Milos it self which perhaps it should have done; nor has it come, in recent years, at a negligible environmental price.

Milos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.
Phylakopi. The minerals of Milos.


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