The site of Skarkos is in a privileged position; situated on a hill in the middle of the west side of Ios, it is in proximity to the island's most extensive arable lands and to one of the safest and largest sheltered harbours in the Cyclades. The site was located and excavated during the years 1984-1997 by the XXI Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, i.e. the regional service of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture responsible for the Cyclades. The excavations brought to light an important Early Bronze Age settlement (mid-3rd millennium BC) in an exceptionally good state of preservation (two-storey buildings, four-metre-high walls), and an overlying late Middle/early Late Bronze Age cemetery (mid-2nd millennium BC) (Marthari 2008, 2009). Consequently, Skarkos has significantly enriched our knowledge of the development of Ios and has provided more solid foundations for our understanding of Cycladic prehistory in general.
Before the project commenced, the site was the subject of intensive specialist research. In addition, in 1999 the XXI Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities created a museum in nearby Chora, capital village of the island. The moveable finds from the excavation were sent to the museum for conservation, following which a number of these objects were put on display. Moreover, the Ministry of Culture paid particular attention to the legal protection status of the site and its immediate setting. The Skarkos area was classified as protected, by Ministerial Decision, in 1986 (Government Gazette 915/30-12-86, Issue 2). Two archaeological protection zones were further established by Ministerial Decision, in 1991 (Government Gazette 85/21-2-91, Issue 2). Construction work is prohibited within the first zone, which is 16.6 hectares in area and covers the entire archaeological site. Most of the fields within this zone were expropriated by the Greek State. Within the second zone, which extends for about 47.2 hectares around the first zone, building is permitted only under certain terms and conditions. In this way, the surrounding natural setting of the site has been protected.
However, the site itself had not been conserved and was not accessible to the public. Consequently, the need for a project for its conservation and its presentation to the public was imperative. The XXI Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities proposed to the central service of the Ministry of Culture the inclusion of such a project in the Third European Community Support Framework. The proposal was accepted and the XXI Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities was responsible for administration of the funds made available. The total cost of the works carried out was euro;1,760,821.72.
Four archaeologists, two architects, two civil engineers, one designer, three restorers, one painter and twenty craftsmen worked on the project. Dr Marisa Marthari, archaeologist, the excavator of the site and director of the XXI Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, was the project leader. She prepared the study for the conservation and presentation, and supervised the works. Mr Haris Vassiliadis, architect of the XXI Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, prepared special studies and supervised works for the conservation of the ruins and the repair and modification of the traditional buildings. Mr Alexandros Andreossatos, chief guard of Ios, member of the XXI Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, oversaw the craftsmen.
The objectives of the project were as follows: (a) the additional expropriation of land for the unification of the site; (b) the conservation of the ruins of the Early Bronze Age settlement and the remnants of its man-made environment; (c) the presentation of the Early Bronze Age site and its surrounding natural and man-made environment; (d) the repair of the traditional route connecting the site with the modern village (Marthari 2006).
These objectives were all fulfilled during the years 2002-2007. The land required for the unification of the site has been expropriated. The Early Bronze Age settlement has been conserved and enhanced. Large quantities of debris accumulated from the 1986-1997 excavations have been removed. Excavation of certain partially investigated buildings in the Early Bronze Age settlement has been completed and their outlines are now clear. The excavated area has been cleared of low-level vegetation. The surviving walls of Early Bronze Age buildings have been repaired and conserved using a removable mortar, while certain Early Bronze Age floors have been conserved using natural materials. The man-made environment has also been conserved. The agricultural terraces and the terrace walls, including the thick terrace walls of Skarkos hill, have been repaired using traditional dry-stone masonry. A threshing floor was moved to another location, to allow completion of the excavation of an Early Bronze Age building.
The presentation of the site has been completed. Various field walls have been repaired to create the enclosure wall of the archaeological site. Two entrances to the site have been opened, one suitable for wheelchair users. An abandoned, stone-built traditional animal shelter, situated close to the entrances, has been converted into a multi-purpose building (guard house, gift shop, and toilet facilities). An old field-path, stepped in parts, has been transformed into a paved visitors' route, leading from the entrances to the multi-purpose building and to the Early Bronze Age settlement. Flowerbeds have been arranged near the entrances and the multi-purpose building, planted exclusively with species from the flora of the Skarkos area.
Seating/group assembly areas and visitor information points have been created, with stone-built benches and information panels. A non-intrusive theatre consisting of three long stone steps (capacity: 50) has been constructed adjoining a terrace wall. Amenities essential for the functioning of the site - telephone, electricity and water - are provided by underground links that do not mar the natural setting. Some traditional cisterns have been restored and the rainwater collected in them is used for various purposes. A farmhouse has been repaired and converted into a guesthouse for researchers. A fodder barn has been repaired and converted into a tool storehouse.
The site is accessed by a major traditional footpath that originally led to the fields to the north of Chora and now runs past the entrances to the site. Paved in places and stepped in its steep parts, this footpath has been carefully restored.
Skarkos is the first organized archaeological site in the Cyclades to present to the public a settlement of the ls"Cycladic Culture'. This culture flourished in the Cycladic islands during the third millennium BC and produced the first examples of white marble sculpture in Greece and Europe, the famous Cycladic figurines. The settlement at Skarkos met the preconditions for such a presentation, as it combines great archaeological importance with an exceptionally good state of preservation.
Since Ios has no other organized archaeological site, the Skarkos site not only enhances the island culturally but also it improves the level of its tourism market. Furthermore, the restoration of the agricultural field terraces and terrace walls to the way they were before their abandonment has given back to the Skarkos area the attractive appearance it had before the tourist development of Ios began, a time when all the island's fields were systematically cultivated.
The Skarkos area is one of outstanding natural beauty. Skarkos hill is surrounded by torrents, on the banks of which grow oleanders, lentisks and osiers. The plain of Kato Kampos extends to the west. Beyond the plain lie the sea and the island's huge natural harbour. Schist-sided hills and mountains rise to the north, south and east.
The timely and strict legal protection status of the area has prevented its destruction, and so the landscape today resembles that of prehistoric times. All work at the site has been low-impact, non-intrusive, and completely attuned to the setting. The entire site has been presented to the public with sensitivity. No new buildings have been erected, unlike at most other archaeological sites, and other new constructions common at archaeological sites, such as wire or rail fences, have been avoided. Necessary facilities have been created by renovating and converting existing traditional buildings. Simple stone benches and an unobtrusive small stone theatre are the only new additions to the site. All construction and conservation work has been carried out exclusively in local stone and the traditional dry-stone walling characteristic of the Skarkos area.
The project was awarded the 2008 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Top Prize for Conservation, for the ls"outstanding quality of conservation work and above all the minimal and extremely sensitive character of the interventions, having no detrimental impact on a unique landscape'.
Marthari, Mu;. 2006, The presentation of prehistoric settlements in the Cyclades: The case of Skarkos on Ios and Phylakopi on Melos, in V. Karageorghis and A. Giannikouri (eds.), Conservation and Presentation of the Cultural and the Natural Heritage of the Large Islands of the Mediterranean, Archaeological Institute of Aegean Studies, Athens, 99-108 (in Greek with English abstract).
Marthari, Mu;. 2008, Aspects of pottery circulation in the Cyclades during the Early Bronze II: Fine and semi-fine imported ceramic wares at Skarkos, Ios, in N. Brodie, J. Doole, G. Gavalas C. Renfrew (eds.), Horizon-Omicron;rho;?zeta;omega;nu;: A Colloquium on the Prehistory of the Cyclades, McDonald Institute Monographs, Cambridge, 71-84.
Marthari, Mu;. 2009, Middle Cycladic and early Late Cycladic cemeteries and their Minoan elements: the case of the cemetery at Skarkos on Ios, in C.M. Macdonald E. Hallager (eds), The Minoans in the Central, Eastern and Northern Aegean - new evidence, Monographs of the Danish Institute at Athens, 8, Athens, 23-40.
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