|Trent University, Canada;
University College London, UK;
Greek Archaeological Service (26th EPKA)
under the aegis of the Canadian Institute in Greece and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture
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We are also exploring the complex ecology of humans, plants, animals and birds that have developed in tandem with the most recent phase of human occupation (late 18th century AD to present). These relationships are both of interest in their own right and as a detailed point of comparison or contrast with earlier episodes of human exploitation.
Close-up of thyme in flower (left) and a young goat on a cliff (right). Photographs by J.J.P. O'Neill and B. Wouda.
Alongside our archaeological and geoarchaeological surveys that also shed light on this period, three further initiatives promise to be particularly informative. Firstly, Sue Colledge (UCL) and Carol Palmer (Leicester) are conducting a study of existing vegetation patterns and cropping strategies on the island. Their work allows us to develop a more comprehensive mapping of the different vegetation communities (e.g. maquis, phrygana/garrigue and residual crops) and environmental niches present on the island by providing both detailed case studies and specialist input for supervised classification of Quickbird and ASTER satellite imagery. It will also gives us much greater insight into patterns of recent land use and provides a firmer basis on which to model the impact of ground cover on the visibility and recovery of archaeological material.
Secondly, Antikythera is also an extremely important stop-over for migrating birds, including large numbers of raptor species. This fact is likely to have encouraged dedicated hunting expeditions from early times as it (unfortunately) still does today. We are currently looking to develop collaborative links with Greek ornithologists to explore the present-day spatial distribution and ecological impact of migrating bird populations and how this might have promoted specific patterns of human visitation and settlement on Antikythera in the past (see also the excellent bird-ringing and documentation project run on Antikythera by the Hellenic Ornithological Society). The size, character and history of various animal populations on the island is also an important subject: for example, Antikythera is famous in recent times for its large goat population which has been left to run wild (and used primarily as a source of meat). A combination of archaeological and historical information allows us to explore the degree to which such a curious situation also existed at other times, as the Classical-Roman name for the island might perhaps suggest (Aegilia, possibly meaning "Goat Island" though there are several alternative derivations), or was significantly different.
Thirdly, Anna Stellatou has been interviewing many of the island's current inhabitants about issues related to property ownership, inheritance, crop rotation and the maintenance of landscape structures such as terraces. To supplement these insights, we also draw on archival data held in the Kytheran Historical Archives, and the UK National Archives, which include census data, official letters from inhabitants of Antikythera, information on crop yields, land holding patterns and taxation.