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

The history of terracing and its impact

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

Main terraced regions on Kythera
Main areas of terracing (in light blue) on Kythera according to the HMGS maps. Shown on top of a slope map, geoarchaeological study zones in orange outline.
A good impression of the major areas of terracing across the island is offered by the Hellenic Military Geographical Service's 1:5,000 maps, but these nonetheless heavily underpresent the overall amount of land that has been invested with such works in the past. KIP geoarchaeologists have sought to create a more detailed map of such structures within each of the geoarchaeoligcal survey zones.

There are two reasons for this level of attention: firstly, depending on the method of their construction, terraces can either reveal archaeological sites or, more commonly, impede their detection. Indeed, previous fieldwork has clearly demonstrated several examples of primary context settlement remains completely buried by terracing. Secondly, numerous parts of the landscape have been terraced more than once, a poly-cyclic process far from being restricted to Kythera, and with significant implications for landscape history and the interpretation of survey data from slope environments in the Mediterranean. Oddly, there are very few accounts of the manner in which terraces fail, or of the time necessary for terraced slopes to revert once they are abandoned.

Map of terraced areas and Quaternary alluvium in the Palaiopolis area
Contour terracing and Quaternary alluvium in the Palaiopolis area
Geoarchaeological research therefore seeks to shed new light on these two issues, not only through its own fieldwork, but also through correlations with the survey data, and historical insights from archival research. All three geoarchaeological areas were significantly more terraced than was initially appreciated. The majority of the water gathering slopes in the mapped area appear to have been cross-channel terraced (to harvest water run-off and small patches of Quaternary alluvium). Somewhat more surprising is the extensive amount of contour terracing, particularly on freshwater Neogene conglomerate, Eocene flysch formations or near freshwater spring vents.
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