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More on Keros

22 January 2018

The full article by Colin Renfrew (which doesn't include the recent discovery of drainage channels under the surface) is available at https://www.britac.ac.uk/sites/default/files/JBA-001-187-Renfrew-HR.pdf … see also DOI:10.5871/jba/001.187 ,Journal of British Archaeology' 17th December 2013 (as published in the same journal pages 187-2120. You can also watch a video of the discoveries on Keros at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYlaQn7LUjM … Renfrew is mostly concerned with the sanctuary in this paper which dates to the end of the mid 3rd millennium BC. He came to the conclusion that the sanctuary was not so much about cult (as in a religion or religious practise) but rather about the performance of rituals. Obviously, this is Renfrew's opinion as we do not know what too much about the beliefs involved. Cycladic islanders made ritual deposits over several centuries from 2750BC, leaving bundles of broken pottery vessels and fragmented images which they had used in rituals elsewhere. They were brought to the sanctuary for ceremonial deposition. The settlement on the promontory of Dhaskalio was where they found lodgings for one or several nights etc. He goes on to compare the sanctuary, as a meeting place, with Gobekli Tepe, Stonehenge, Ness of Brodgar and Caral in Peru. A place of seembly where seasonal ceremony took place – whatever they might be. He also made an analogy with pre-Shang China where carvings in jade were buried ceremoniously. This had parallels with the polished stone axes of green stone quarried in the Alps and the Lake District etc. and buried in Britain and in Brittany (and no doubt elsewhere). He even draws a parallel with the axe trade among Aboriginal Australians.

Dhaskalio is a 200m long islet. Occupation in the settlement provided C14 dates of 2750-2300BC. Terracing was involved – but there was no significant fortification. There was a building on the summit – as well as the other buildings (all made of marble it seems). A small Byzantine chapel was built much later -thousands of years later. The white marble was imported from Naxos (10km away) – determined by John Draper a geologist from Edinburgh University. A small enclosure near the summit was full of water washed pebbles from beaches on another island. They don't seem to have an obvious use but presumably may have had ritual significance of some kind. Similar enclosures are found at later periods – in Middle and Late Minoan contexts. A small permanent population may have lived on Dhaskalio but seasonal or periodical occupation with over 400 people crowding the promontory/islet would have expanded the amount of people. It has also been suggested the pottery was painted and unpainted and originated at ritual processions in cycladic villages. When they came to the end of their life they were not thrown away. Instead, a section of the remains were gathered up after they had been ritually smashed and brought to Dhaskalio.

He goes on to say that the symbolic centrality of the sanctuary had lost its significance by the end of the 3rd millennium BC – at the end of the Early Bronze Age. One can compare this with the loss of importance at Ness of Brodgar and Stonehenge at the same point in time – after 2300BC. Obviously, something had happened to upset the applecart – and cause an upheaval of cult. Was it something to do with an object in the sky? In the Middle and Late Bronze ages Keros was unimportant – the no convincing explanation for this is being suggested. In the early part of the Iron Age a ritual centre was established on the island of Delos, venerated by the Greeks as the birth place of Apollo and Artemis.

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