Kythera Island Project
Specific Geoarchaeological Research:
Palaeoenvironment and coastal change
Soil and bedrock mapping
Site integrity and geomorphology
Terracing and its impact

Palaeoenvironment and coastal change

Principal Investigators:
Charles Frederick (Independent)
Nancy Krahtopoulou (Sheffield)

Location of cores in Kastri/Palaiopolis area
Kastri/Palaiopolis area with the main coring locations shown in blue.

KIP geoarchaeologists seek to understand the palaeoenvironment through a combination of 'patch' walking of important zones, the cleaning, characterisation and sampling of standing sections and targeted sub-surface investigation.

Three coastal fluvial deposits close to the port site of Kastri were selected for coring as likely locations for preservation of pollen, microfauna and datable environmental remains, and also as probable marine inlets earlier in the Holocene, hence potential harbours for the site. The work evolved in two stages: (i) five cores extracted with a lorry-mounted rotary corer contracted from IGME to obtain 65m of core (ii) finer percussion coring using a hand-held rig (our thanks to Peter James and Chris Mee of Liverpool University and the Kouphovouno project for the generous loan of this equipment in 2000). The advantage of the former was that it could penetrate deep and often gravelly deposits, an essential feature during the preliminary investigation of sediments of unknown or mixed character. It proved less well suited to extraction of information for fine-resolution palaeoenvironmental work. The five IGME cores provided an overall rough image of the alluvial, marsh and marine deposits in all the river valleys, and usable segments of marine deposits in the Vothonas valley that would have been otherwise unreachable. One IGME core demonstrated that there is over 20m of presumably Holocene age gravelly alluvium filling the Palaiopolis river valley today.

IGME coring in the Skafidi basin
IGME coring in the Skafidi basin. Photography by C. Broodbank 2000.

The percussion corer was principally used in the Skafidi drainage to extract a high quality palaeoenvironmental core (6.2m deep and abandoned when deformation of the deposits became so great as to preclude confidence) following confirmation through rotary coring of the soft, organic-rich and fairly accessible nature of the sediments in this area. Sampling for pollen, radiocarbon and sediment analysis was done in the field because the gouge did not permit collection of in situ cores. The sequence records a shift in sedimentation from dominantly fluvial to marsh, and ends with a significant plug of red clay reflecting soil erosion in the catchment. The prospects for a long Holocene palaeoenvironmental record for the Kastri region (and one of still relatively few for the southern Aegean) are promising. Plans are well underway to check for pollen, followed by fuller study and a detailed sequence of radiocarbon dates.

In the Palaiopolis river five different age alluvial fills could be recognised: two of Pleistocene age, and three of Holocene age (one presumably Early to Middle Holocene, one Early Bronze Age to Classical, and one very gravelly fill that has been deposited sometime following the Bronze Age).

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