Kythera Island Project

Kastri Restudy

TIN model of Kastri
Preliminary TIN model of Kastri based on total station survey by J. Conolly in 1999-2000.
Despite prior antiquarian scholarship and small-scale exploration, the excavations by Nicolas Coldstream and George Huxley during the early 1960s at the large multi-period coastal settlement of Kastri (in Palaiopolis) mark the beginning of major archaeological research on Kythera (see their swiftly published, highly informative edited volume, Kythera: Excavations and Studies, 1972). Although there is relatively little to see on the surface today, these excavations established the site's importance for the understanding of Aegean history. Their claim that in the Early Bronze Age (around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC) Kastri witnessed the arrival of Cretan immigrants, who ousted an indigenous community and founded a 'Minoan colony' that lasted for a thousand years, right through the age of the Cretan palaces, has had a lasting impact on interpretations of Cretan power and ethnic identity in the southern Aegean. Also of interest are their insights into the site's later role as the port for the inland Classical town at Palaiokastro ('Skandeia', as it was then known, is mentioned by Thucydides among others, in the context of an Athenian attack), and subsequently as a fortified centre in Late Roman times.
Kite photo mosaic of Kastri
Kite photo mosaic of Kastri. Late Roman fortification wall outlined in red and other visible walls in orange. Original kite photography by T. Cunningham 2000.

KIP has naturally engaged at many levels with the site of Kastri, both through re-investigating the material recovered during the 1960s excavations, and through its own fresh research. Indeed, it is not coincidental that Kastri lies at the core of the area surveyed by KIP, for one of the project's most rapidly defined aims was to provide a wider regional perspective on this key site. Examples of such re-analyses include pottery, where the excavated sequence at Kastri has proved to be of fundamental importance in defining a shape and fabric typology for the identification of surface sherds (see Fabric-Based Approaches and Ceramic Petrology), and also where ongoing work is re-interpreting and nuancing key phases in the site's history, specifically the question of cultural and demographic change in the Early Bronze Age, and the date of the end of the site's Late Bronze Age occupation. Another case is archaeometallurgy. New investigations reported in other pages of this website include tractwalking and gridded surface collection across the site, the Tholos excavation, re-investigation of the mortuary landscape, and extensive geoarchaeological work in the vicinity, which has demonstrated, among other things, that the site was flanked by deep embayments, suitable as harbours in antiquity, and now completely filled in by alluvial activity. In addition to these initiatives, KIP has created the first detailed maps and 3-dimensional reconstructions of the site, which are essential for knowledge of its extent and topography. In 1999 the seaward promontory area was photographed from the air using a kite-held camera (this exciting operation was undertaken by Tim Cunningham using equipment loaned by Jan Driessen, both of Louvain University). Complemented by investigation on the ground, the resultant mosaic of aerial images has enabled the accurate mapping of the Late Roman fortification wall (from which the site takes its name), and revealed the extent of coastal erosion on the southern and western sides. Meanwhile, during 1999 and 2000, James Conolly undertook a detailed total-station survey of the topography of the site as a whole, creating an essential framework over which to 'drape' material distributions, tomb locations and geoarchaeological data.

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