submitted by The Australian Paliohora Kythera Archaeological Survey (APKAS) on 27.12.2005
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The Australian Paliochora Kythera
Archaeological Survey (APKAS)
Field Season 2000
Field Season Dates : 6th September to 4th October 2000
Ian Johnson (Director), Archaeology Computing Lab, University of Sydney
Cosmos Coroneos, Cosmos Archaeology Pty Ltd
Lita Diacopoulos, University of Sydney
Timothy E. Gregory, Ohio State University
Anthony Millar, Project archaeologist, Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania
Stavros Paspalas, Deputy Director, Australian Archaeological Institute in Athens
Gina Scheer, University of Sydney
The Australian Paliochora-Kythera Archaeological Survey (APKAS) seeks to investigate the broad question of the relationship between fortified centres and their hinterlands in the Byzantine period, testing alternative hypotheses for site location and the factors influencing occupation and abandonment of sites. The project focuses on the abandoned site of Paliochora (mediaeval Agios Demetrios) on the island of Kythera, mid-way between the Peloponnesos and Crete (on Byzantine Kythera see Herrin 1972).
Traditionally it has been assumed that fortified centers, particularly medieval castles, existed primarily for purposes of defence, and that military considerations were the pre-eminent concerns for their location and existence. Our project is designed to test this hypothesis against other possible explanations of fortified settlements, especially in the island environments of the Aegean area, but with ramifications for other parts of the world.
APKAS seeks to conduct a statistically designed survey of the area surrounding Paliochora, using the area as a ‘field laboratory’ to investigate the locational characteristics, and the settlement and abandonment of fortified sites in marginal environments. The project uses leading-edge GIS and GPS methods, developed or adapted by members of the team in the course of other projects, for survey design, data recording, analysis and presentation of results.
The present study complements an architectural survey carried out by the British School of Archaeology inside the site of Paliochora (Ince et al. 1987) and a current survey in the center of the island, also sponsored by the British School. APKAS has good cooperative arrangements with the British survey, as well as with the Archaeological Service of Greece, and we seek to give the project broader exposure through more popular means of presentation (e.g., the web site at http://www.archaeology.usyd.edu.au/research/kyth).
APKAS focuses on a territory of approximately 64 km2 in the northern part of Kythera, a region defined on the basis of the environment as the natural hinterland of Paliochoa, the major Byzantine settlement on the island, reputed in later sources and in local tradition as an especially wealthy place. The site of Paliochora (mediaeval Agios Demetrios) is located in the north-east corner of the island, approximately 3.5 kilometres east of Potamos. The remains are perched on a low hill at the southern end of a large gorge (Kako Lagadi) that leads to the coast. The site is bounded on three sides by steep cliffs and is connected by a narrow land-bridge to higher ground to the south. Much of the surrounding countryside to the south of Agios Demetrios is scored by deep terraced gullies running in a general northerly direction, and is now abandoned and given over to goats (largely as a result of migration in this century, primarily to Australia).
APKAS is conducting archaeological survey in the hinterland of Paliochora in order to investigate questions about the founding of the city, its economic basis, and the reasons for its abandonment in the 16th century and the formation of the present system of villages in the vicinity. The survey is diachronic, and it will of course record evidence from before and after the medieval period, but the economic, social, and political history of the Byzantine period is its primary focus.
The Year 2000 Field Season
The objectives of the 2000 field season were as follows:
· Continue ceramic collection in areas surveyed in the 1999 field season
· Undertake survey and ceramic collection in new areas, as outlined in the 2000 permit application, namely:
-- the ridges between Paliochora and the Potamos/Aroniadika Road
-- Vythoula, north east of Potamos
· Test new survey techniques combining existing topographic maps, aerial photography, GPS and GIS technology
· Reconnaissance of the study area for locations to be surveyed in future seasons.
· On-going documentation of churches
· On-going collection of oral histories
Conduct of the 2000 field season :
The range and intensity of this season’s fieldwork was largely constrained by the relatively small size of the team, necessitated by a low level of funding, and the need to refine techniques developed in the 1999 season.
The first two weeks of the season was spent undertaking ceramic collection in areas surveyed last year, principally the ridge tops immediately north, west and south of Paliochora and at Aroniadika.
The ceramic collection around Paliochora revealed a surprising range of ceramics, prehistoric, Classical/Hellenistic, medieval and post-medieval. The extent of the ceramic scatters did not suggest the presence of settlements of any considerable size, but the presence of definitely medieval pottery around the church of Agios Demetrios (southwest of Paliochora) suggests that this area was utilized during the period Paliochora’s efflorescence. Whether this was the site of a settlement or simply an agricultural area cannot yet be determined, but the presence of a church (of undetermined date) might suggest the former. Immediately north of Paliochora, on the cliff edge overlooking the gorge, a dense concentration of obsidian flakes was observed (Survey Unit 101).
In the Aroniadika area most of the ceramics found were medieval to modern. Prehistoric and iron slag were found in an abandoned field, Survey Unit 301, on the western edge of the cultivated fields surrounding Aroniadika.
In the third week of the survey, efforts were concentrated along the ridge top around Agia Aikaterine. Here, an area of approximately 1200 x 400 metres was divided into survey units. Although not all the defined area was subjected to ceramic collection, significant densities of roof tiles and Roman period ceramics were found east and west of Agia Aikaterine. The most extensive ceramic scatter, 250 m west of Agia Aikaterine, covers an area of at least 200 x 100 m. Again, as with the area of Agios Demetrios, significant numbers of medieval sherds (i.e., pre-1537) were discovered in the immediate vicinity of the church of Agia Aikaterine, again suggesting land use—and possibly a settlement—in the period when Paliochora was inhabited.
The final week of the season was spent surveying Vythoula. The existence of the site has been published (Waterhouse and Hope Simpson, 1961:149 and Πετροχειλος, 1984:55). Situated 2.5 kilometers north east of Potamos, the site is bounded to the north and south by two knolls. In between these knolls is a broad saddle upon which is sited the church of Archangel Michael Xestratigos. To the west of the saddle, the ground drops away sharply into a gorge while to the east the ground is extensively terraced to a point where the ground gives way to steep cliffs. The southern knoll is bounded along its south side by a cliff face.
An area approximately 300 x 300 m, encompassing both hills, the saddle and the terraced area to the east, was divided into survey units. Ceramic collection took place in most of these units where vegetation density permitted. Ceramics from the Classical/Hellenistic period were by the far the most prevalent of the ceramics present. There was very little Roman period or later identified, although there were some medieval pieces from the immediate area of the church. Some Early Bronze and Late Bronze (Mycenaean) were also recovered but their extent seemed to the northern slopes of the southern knoll.
Considerable amounts of slag, most likely associated with copper or iron production, were found. In one area, again on the northern slopes of the southern knoll, both slag and ore of an unidentified nature, were found in association.
Approximately 50 meters north east of the church were found, within close proximity of each other, a number of terracotta loom weights, a poorly preserved terracotta head, approximately 0.07 meters in length, and fragments of both a stone and ceramic perirrhanteria. This suite of artifacts is suggestive of the presence of a Classical period sanctuary within the site.
The Classical period settlement could be said to encompass the southern knoll, and associated ridge line projecting towards the south east, the saddle, the lower southern slopes of the northern knoll and the terraced areas to the east. The conservatively estimated size of the site is around 200 x 300 meters.
Concurrent with the above mentioned activities were reconnaissance inspections throughout the study area for the purpose of selecting areas of interest for future survey.
Whilst looking for the documented site of Phoinikies, (Petrocheilos 1984:57), the team came across a hitherto undocumented Classical/Roman site in an area named ‘Trochiles’, 1700 meters west of the modern village of Kousounari. The site is conservatively estimated at 100 x 200 meters in size. Obsidian flakes were also observed in the area. Survey units have been defined around the site and surrounding area in the expectation of survey work being conducted there in the future.
Survey units were also delineated at Agios Georgos Kolokythas, situated on top of the hill between Agia Pelagia and Agia Patrikia. Surrounding the church is a fortification wall which maybe contemporary with Paliochora. This site and the adjacent cove may have served as the port for the northern part of the island during the medieval period. From the ceramic evidence observed, within the perimeter of the fortification wall and on the slopes south of the wall, it would seem that the site may have been occupied earlier.
Further tentatively identified sites were observed during the church documentation component of the season. At Agios Georgos, approximately 600 meters west of Vythoula, situated on a south facing slope of a terraced valley, prehistoric and classical sherds were found. Around the church of the Prophet Elijah, approximately 1 kilometer north west of Potamos were found scatters of classical period ceramics. Neither of these two areas were delineated with survey units.
During 1999 and 2000 some 365 survey units were investigated systematically and 9,700 archaeological objects were noted. These may be broken down as shown on Table 1.
Objects noted during field survey, 1999-2000
Of the total of 9,700 objects observed, almost exactly one-third were described in detail. Thus, 3,294 archaeological objects were described and entered into the project database in 2000. The break-down of these objects by period is shown in Table 2.
Ancient (otherwise unspecified)
Medieval (to 1537)
uncertain (ceramic age)
Table 2. Objects described by period
Obviously, this information can be broken down more fully, but this does provide some information on the broad representation of periods encountered in the survey area. Again, returning to our basic research question, it does appear as though there is significant material (2.64% of the total) to suggest that there was activity in the survey area, outside of Paliochora, before its destruction in 1537.
Research in 2000 continued on the recording of the churches in the survey area and the correlation of this information with the survey data and the 18th-century census records and other documentary information (cf. Chatizidakis and Bitha 1997; Maltezou 1980). The extension of the survey area to the north (as far as Agia Anastasia north of Potamos) and the discovery of several churches in the area around Vythoulas, extended the number of churches so-far discovered. Many of these are still in use, although the liturgy is celebrated in them only infrequently—others are completely abandoned and falling quickly into total ruin. To date some 47 churches have been identified and entered into the project database (see Table 3). Most of these are, unfortunately, undatable on the basis of their architecture and their construction technique, as they are simple, small single aisled vaulted buildings. Nonetheless, the data from these churches, when coupled with the GIS information about their location, the survey data, and the documentary material, promises to be a rich source of information about this part of Kythera.
A. Kosmas N. Paliochora
A. Demetrios Aroniadika
A. Ilias Aroniadika
A. Minas Aronianika
A. Vasilios Christoforianika
A. Triada Friligianika
Guria = Katsoulianika
A. Demetrios Gouria
Guria = Katsoulianika
A. Nikolaos Gouria
Guria = Katsoulianika
A. Triada Gouria
A. Antonios Kastrissianika
A. Athanassios Kastrissianika
A. Georgios Dourianika
A. Georgios Perlegianika
A. Athanassios Pitsinades
A. Anargyroi Panaretianika
A. Triada Potamos
A. Charalambos S Potamos
A. Charalambos N Potamos
A. Georgios Fardoulianika
Panagia Ilariotissa Potamos
A. Kyriake Potamos
A. Ioannis Pentayious Potamos
A. Ioannis Prodromos
A. Ioannis Theologos
A. Xestratigos Vythoulas
A. Georgios Koufounianika
A. Nikon Zaglanikianika
A. Onoufrios Zaglanikianika
Table 3. List of churches in APKAS survey area
Chatzidakis, M., and I. Bitha 1997. Eyrethqrio Byzantinvqn
Toixografiqvn Ellaqdow. 1. Kyquhra. Athens.
Coldstream, J.N., and Huxley, G.L. 1967 Kythera: Excavations and Studies conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the British School at Athens. London.
Herrin, Judith 1972 Byzantine Kythera, in Coldstream and Huxley 1972: 41-51.
Ince, Gillian E., Koukoulis, Theodore, and Smyth, David 1987
Paliochora: Survey of a Byzantine City on the Island of Kythera. Preliminary Report, BSA 82: 95-106.
Maltezou, Chryssa 1980 A Contribution to the Historical Geography of the Island of Kythira during the Venetian Occupation, in A.E. Laiou-Thomadakis, ed., Charanis Studies. Essays in Honor of Peter Charanis. New Brunswick, 161-75.
Πετρόxειλος, Ι. 1984 ΤΑ ΚΥΘΗΡΑ από την Προϊστορικοί εποχή ως τη Ρωμαιοκρατία, Πανεπιστήμιο Ιωαννίνων, Επιστημονική Επετηρίδα Φιλοσοφικής Σχολής, Δωδώνη : Παράρτημα Αριθ. 21
Waterhouse, H and Hope Simpson, R. 1961 Prehistoric Laconia : Part II, BSA 56, pp114-175.
 Ceramic collection involved a team of between 2 to 5 field walkers. The team walked at set spacings within previously defined survey units. Each walker kept a count of sherds observed, which was tallied with the rest of the walkers at the completion of each unit. Each walker also collected a single representative sample of each ceramic type observed; rims, bases, handles, decorated body fragments and body sherds of a particular fabric. This method of collection greatly reduced the number of sherds collected thereby minimising the impact on the resource.
 The eastern boundary of the site has yet to be defined clearly and more survey work could be done in this area.
 The area is referred to as ‘Toufezina’ on the 1:5000 map.
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