Keros has been an archaeological mystery since 1963, when Colin Renfrew, then a PhD student, reported looting at the west end of the island. Investigations over the next 40 years showed that what had been looted was a large deposit of ritually broken prestige items, including the iconic Cycladic figurines. The discovery in 2006 of a second, unlooted deposit opened the way for scholars finally to understand that what had once existed here was the world’s earliest maritime sanctuary, where inhabitants from all the surrounding islands (and sometimes further afield) came, in wooden canoes, to participate in community rituals which resulted in the large deposits of broken figurines.
In 2007 and 2008 work began on understanding the adjacent settlement – now known to the largest of the Bronze Age Cyclades. Only a small part could be excavated in 2007 and 2008, so the current excavations, which began in 2016, aim to expand our understanding of this unique site. We now know that the site was built in a monumental and planned manner, using marble arduously imported by sea from Naxos 10km (6 miles) distant. The site was also a metalworking centre: although distant from ore sources, these were brought to Keros for smelting and subsequent casting there. In 2016 we began excavation of a metallurgical workshop, and a second was found in 2017. We are only beginning to comprehend the scope of the site, its importance in the far-flung networks of the early bronze age.
The Keros excavation uses a unique combination of up to the minute methodology and digital recording. In 2018 we will continue our investigation using the latest excavation techniques including dGPS, the iDig iPad app, and digital photogrammetry. We aim to understand how all the different parts of the island were utilised in the early bronze age. We shall uncover more of the early settlement to develop our understanding of the overall structure, function and date of the site. Excavations elsewhere on Keros will help us understand relationships between outlying settlement and the central sanctuary.
The excavation is a project of the British School at Athens and the University of Cambridge. The Field School is a joint enterprise of the University of Cambridge and The Cyprus Institute.