Kythera Island Project

Introduction

Terra MODIS image of the Aegean with the location of Kythera indicated
Satellite image of the Aegean: Kythera circled in orange
(28/10/02, Terra MODIS, NASA)
Kythera Island Project (KIP) is an inter-disciplinary research programme that investigates the long-term cultural and natural dynamics of insularity on the Aegean island of Kythera, Greece. Kythera’s location makes it a stepping-stone for maritime movement, or alternatively a filter on transmission, between Crete and the Peloponnese, as well as a nodal point between the Aegean and the central Mediterranean.

The island has experienced a long, complex history, stretching over some 7000 years, from the arrival of the first settlers during the later Neolithic (5th millennium BC). This history has witnessed not only internal transformations and changing strategies and identities within the island, but also engagement with a variety of off-island networks of differing natures and extents. The latter include Kythera’s incorporation in, successively, Bronze Age Cretan palatial trade routes, the hegemony of Iron Age Sparta, and the empires of Athens, Rome, Byzantium, Venice, Ottoman Turkey and Britain, through unification with the modern Greek state, to the world-wide Kytheran diaspora communities of the present. These factors combine to make Kythera an ideal theatre in which to analyse the scales and forms of activity that fashion Mediterranean island lives, economies and identities through time, from the microcosmic to the global level.

They equally encourage a more sophisticated exploration of the wider significance of island societies (and of island archaeology) than that reflected in the well-known but misleading concept of the ‘island laboratory’. KIP therefore aims to contribute to our knowledge of the long-term history of the Mediterranean, and to advance our understanding of island societies, past and present, within a comparative framework.

The project team is an international one, mainly from Britain and Greece, but also 20 other countries from Europe to Australia, China and India, and comprising a wide range of experience including leading academics, some 32 PhD students and many other postgraduate and undergraduate volunteers. Its two principal academic bases are the Institute of Archaeology (University College London) and the British School at Athens. The latter has a long history of involvement in the archaeology of Kythera, going back to the excavations by Nicolas Coldstream and George Huxley at the major port settlement of Kastri in Palaiopolis (1963-65).

KIP's base on Kythera during the summer season is the picturesque and historic village of Mitata in the centre of the island. Visits by prior arrangement are very welcome, as the project is dedicated to disseminating as widely as possible an understanding of the island's immensely rich culture and history.

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