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Dhaskalio promontory (Keros Island, Greece) shows evidence of extensive earth and metal works to sculpt its natural pyramid shape.

A Jewel in the Aegean: Greeks Used Advanced Engineering to Create a Monumental Island

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Excavation work directed by the University of Cambridge on the island of Keros, a remote and unpopulated Greek island in the Cyclades, has unearthed an intricate series of memorial structures and technological worldliness that was previously unknown.

Most Impressive Ancient Manmade Structure of Aegean Discovered

Keros may be forgotten and isolated nowadays, but it has a glorious historical background. Ongoing excavations around the island of Keros have revealed the technological excellence of the small group of Greeks who lived there 4,500 years ago as The Guardian reports.

Archaeologists suggest that the ancient Greeks shaped the island into terraces covered with 1,000 tonnes of specially imported gleaming white stone brought from Naxos Island almost 10 kilometers (6 miles) away. The headland was shaped like a pyramid due to the fact that the extraordinary builders of Dhaskalio magnified this shape by creating a series of massive terrace walls that stood proudly and dominated the Aegean. It was the most impressive manmade structure in all the Cyclades archipelago in antiquity, while the pyramid of terraces stood proudly and could be visible from far off. According to the archaeologists, the island’s remains make it one of the most important archaeological sites of the Aegean Sea during the Early Bronze Age.

The island was sculpted with terraces and white stone to make it dazzle for miles around.

The island was sculpted with terraces and white stone to make it dazzle for miles around. (Image: Cambridge Keros Project)

The Engineering Miracles and Secrets Wait to be Revealed

The island was considered for years by historians and researchers from Cambridge University as the “world's oldest maritime sanctuary,” but the new excavations have revealed that the headland of Dhaskalio – which was once attached to Keros and is now a small islet because of sea level rise – was totally covered by astonishing monuments. “The islet, with its narrow causeway to the main island, may have become a focus because it formed the best natural harbor on Keros, and had an excellent view of the north, south and west Aegean, “study co-author Dr. Colin Renfrew stated via The Guardian.

Constructions on the island.

Constructions on the island. (Image: University of Cambridge)

According to the researchers, beneath the surface of the terraces “hide” undiscovered feats of engineering and craftsmanship to match the structure’s majestic exterior. Archaeologists from three different countries take part in the ongoing excavation work, which has produced clear evidence of a complex of drainage tunnels that were created a thousand years before the legendary indoor plumbing of the Mycenaean palace of Knossos on Crete.

Sophisticated and Highly-Advanced Metalworking Spotted

Furthermore, archaeologists have noted to spot traces of advanced metalworking. The first evidence of metalworking at the site was discovered in excavations almost a decade ago as The Guardian reports. The new discoveries, however, have unearthed two impressive workshops full of metalworking debris, and various items including a lead axe, a mold for copper daggers and dozens of ceramic fragments from metalworking equipment including the mouth of a bellows.

A stone mold for making copper daggers was found at indicating a metal workshop.

A stone mold for making copper daggers was found at indicating a metal workshop. (Image: Cambridge Keros Project)

Archaeologists will reportedly return to the site to excavate an untouched clay oven, unearthed during the very end of the last season. Dr. Michael Boyd from the University of Cambridge and joint director of the excavation, pinpointed that metalworking proficiency was manifestly concerted at Dhaskalio during a time that access to both skills and raw materials was very limited. “What we are seeing here with the metalworking and in other ways is the beginnings of urbanization,” he said via The Guardian. And continued, “Far-flung communities were drawn into networks centered on the site, craft and agricultural production was intensified, and the architecture became grander, gradually overshadowing the original importance of the sanctuary. Excavated soil reveals food traces including pulses, grapes, olives, figs and almonds, and cereals, including wheat and barley.”

Wall of imported Naxian marble, Trench I, Dhaskalio

Wall of imported Naxian marble, Trench I, Dhaskalio  (Image: Cambridge Keros Project)

Evi Margaritis of the Cyprus Institute added to Dr Boyd’s statements, “Much of this food was imported: in the light of this evidence we need to reconsider what we know about existing networks to include food exchange,” The Guardian reports.

Ultimately, the excavations are being recorded digitally, using the iDig programme running on iPads for the first time in the Aegean as The Guardian reports. This creates three-dimensional models using photogrammetry recording of the entire digging process, giving everyone that’s participating access to all data in real time.

Top image: Dhaskalio promontory (Keros Island, Greece) shows evidence of extensive earth and metal works to sculpt its natural pyramid shape. Source: Cambridge Keros Project)

By Theodoros Karasavvas



Many of the Cyclades Islands at this time, have archaeology that suggests larger populations than the land can support, mandating the import of food. Minoan and island activity specialised, that could generate trade goods to allow food to be imported. Bearing in mind there was no money to allow value exchange. Nonetheless, this appears to have been overcome. These seem to be mobility of goods beyond a basic barter system: one party having a surplus of something and desiring another commodity in exchange.

So, they found my lead axe. Wait until they find my rubber crutch. --Groucho Marxopoulos

Theodoros Karasavvas's picture


Theodoros Karasavvas, J.D.-M.A. has a cum laude degree in Law from the University of Athens, a Masters Degree in Legal History from the University of Pisa, and a First Certificate in English from Cambridge University. When called upon to do... Read More

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