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Antikythera Survey Project

Antikythera Survey Project

Long-term history and human ecology of the Greek island of Antikythera

The Antikythera Survey Project (ASP) is a phased, interdisciplinary programme of fieldwork, artefact study and laboratory analysis that addresses the long-term history and human ecology of the tiny Greek island of Antikythera, over a period of about 7000 years.

A view of Antikythera covered by images of artefacts

Antikythera is one of the smallest (ca. 20 sq.km) and most remote inhabited places in the insular Mediterranean, but also one of the best-placed, lying on a key axes of maritime movement, both north-south between the southern Balkan peninsula (the Peloponnese) and Crete, and east-west, between the eastern and central Mediterranean. This strategic, if often fragile and marginal, location is emphasized by the presence of a fortified pirate community on Antikythera during the Hellenistic period (4th to 1st century BC), and a 1st century BC shipwreck a few hundred meters off the coast that famously produced a series of bronze statues and the Antikythera mechanism, an intricately-geared device for maritime navigation.

Antikythera is also an island that provides an incredibly attractive research context, for three main reasons:

Interdisciplinary methods being used by the Antikythera Survey Project
  • Small islands are prone to experiencing abrupt demographic changes, including periods of near complete abandonment and recolonisation. Our results have indeed revealed that Antikythera has a long and turbulent history, which stretches back to the latter stages of the Neolithic and includes a substantial Bronze Age presence, a fortified Hellenistic pirate town, several Late Roman communities, Byzantine and Venetian evidence as well as a period of more recent re-colonization. Between several demographic highs are also some apparent demographic crashes, most obviously in the last hundred years. This comparatively discontinuous record of human activity makes it easier to date and understand settlement strategies and multiple cycles of landscape investment (such as terracing) than in most other Mediterranean landscapes.
  • Small islands such as Antikythera play eccentric but extremely revealing roles in wider social, economic and political networks (for example as special places for refugees, hunters, political exiles, hermits, monks and/or pirates). ASP addresses many of these phenomena by combining different types of environmental, archaeological and historical evidence, but also seeks to place them in the broader Mediterranean context in which they emerge.
  • Whereas high-resolution archaeological and environmental survey has been practiced successfully on many other Aegean islands, those projects necessarily performed their data collection in a series of restricted sample areas. In contrast, Antikythera is small enough that we have been able to cover the entire island by intensive survey and to collect other datasets comprehensively.

Related outputs

  • Bevan, A. and Conolly, J., 2013. Mediterranean Islands, Fragile Communities and Persistent Landscapes: Antikythera in Long-term Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Johnston, A., Quercia, A., Tsaravopoulos, A., Bevan, A. and J. Conolly, forthcoming. Pots, piracy and Aegila. Hellenistic ceramics from an intensive survey of Antikythera, Greece, Annual of the British School at Athens 107. 
  • Bevan, A., Conolly, J., Hennig, C., Johnston, A., Quercia, A., Spencer, L. and J. Vroom. 2012. Measuring chronological uncertainty in intensive survey finds. A case study from Antikythera, Greece, Archaeometry 54. 
  • Bevan, A. and J. Conolly 2012. Intensive survey data from Antikythera, Greece, Journal of Open Archaeology Data 1.1
  • Bevan, A. and Conolly, J. 2011. Terraced fields and Mediterranean landscape structure: an analytical case study from Antikythera, Greece, Ecological Modelling 222: 1303–1314
  • Quercia, A., Johnston, A., Bevan, A., Conolly, J. and A. Tsaravopoulos 2011. Roman pottery from an intensive survey of Antikythera, Greece, Annual of the British School at Athens 106: 47-98
  • Pentedeka, A., E. Kiriatzi, L. Spencer, A. Bevan, J. Conolly 2010. From Fabrics to Island Connections: Macroscopic and Microscopic Approaches to the Prehistoric Pottery of Antikythera, Annual of the British School at Athens 105: 1-81.
  • Palmer, C., Colledge, S., Bevan, A., Conolly, J. 2010. Vegetation Recolonisation of Abandoned Agricultural Terraces on Antikythera, Greece, Environmental Archaeology 15.1: 64-80.
  • Bevan, A. and Conolly, J. 2009. Modelling Spatial Heterogeneity and Nonstationarity in Artifact-Rich Landscapes, Journal of Archaeological Science 36.4: 956-964.
  • Bevan, A., Conolly, J. and A. Tsaravopoulos 2008. The Fragile Communities of Antikythera, Archaeology International 10: 32-36.
  • Major bilingual Greek-English website and data archive, with widely used tutorials (www.ucl.ac.uk/asp)

Funding

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • British Academy
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada
  • Institute of Aegean Prehistory
  • Mediterranean Archaeological Trust

Project Leader:


Project Members:

  • James Conolly (Trent University, Canada)
  • Aris Tsaravopoulos (Greek Archaeological Service)
  • Sue Colledge

Keywords:


Further information:


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