Complex Engineering Discovered Beneath Ancient Greek “Pyramid” on Keros

Keros island, Greece. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Vaios Hasialis)

ATHENS – Archeologists have discovered the complex engineering beneath the impressive ancient Greek “pyramid” on the island of Keros in the Cyclades, as reported by The Guardian. Builders worked on creating the structure over 4,000 years ago, carving terraces from the “naturally pyramid-shaped promontory” and covering them with “1,000 tonnes of specially imported gleaming white stone,” as the Guardian reported, adding that it is “the most imposing manmade structure in all the Cyclades archipelago.”

Underneath the imposing structure, archeologists found something even more impressive- a complicated drainage system constructed by engineers and craftsman long before the advent of indoor plumbing, as the Guardian reported, “1,000 years before the famous indoor plumbing of the Minoan palace of Knossos on Crete – and traces of sophisticated metalworking.”

With rising sea levels today, Dhaskalio is an islet next to Keros, but thousands of years ago, it was connected with a narrow land-bridge to the main island which is uninhabited and a protected area. During the 3rd millennium BC, Keros was a sacred site for religious ceremonies. As the Guardian reported, “Earlier excavations by the team from the University of Cambridge, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades, and the Cyprus Institute have uncovered thousands of marble Cycladic sculptures – the stylized human figures which inspired western artists, including Pablo Picasso – and which appear to have beendeliberately broken elsewhere and brought to the island for burial.”

The settlement on the island was likely a sizable one to build and maintain the island and though it is deserted now, archeological evidence shows as the Guardian reported, the “slopes of Dhaskalio were once covered with structures and buildings, suggesting that 4,500 years ago it was one of the most densely populated parts of the islands – despite the fact that it could not have been self-sufficient, meaning that most food, like the stone and the ore for metal working, had to be imported.”

A decade ago, excavations revealed evidence for the first time that metal-working took place on the island. Now, the most recent excavations have revealed “two workshops full of metalworking debris, and objects including a lead axe, a mould for copper daggers and dozens of ceramic fragments from metalworking equipment including the mouth of a bellows,” as the Guardian reported, adding that “Archaeologists will return to excavate an intact clay oven, found at the very end of the last season.”

The University of Cambridge’s Michael Boyd is the joint director of the dig noted that “metalworking expertise was evidently concentrated at Dhaskalio at a time when access to both skills and raw materials was very limited,” as reported in the Guardian, adding that, “What we are seeing here with the metalworking and in other ways is the beginnings of urbanization.”

Among the traces of food in the soil that was excavated were grains like wheat and barley, fruits like figs, grapes, olives, and almonds, and pulses like beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. The Cyprus Institute’s Evi Margaritis said, as the Guardian reported, “Much of this food was imported: in the light of this evidence we need to reconsider what we know about existing networks to include food exchange.”

The structure would have gleamed, reflecting the sun’s rays off the white stone that had been brought in from Naxos a little over 6 miles away. As archeologists worked on excavating a staircase, the system if drainage tunnels was uncovered, as the Guardian reported, “research continues to discover whether they were for fresh water or sewage.”

Joint director of the excavation, former Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge, and now the senior fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Lord Renfrew, who first visited Keros as a student and over the years has returned often, “believes the promontory may originally have become a focus for development because it guarded the best natural harbour on the island, with wide views across the Aegean,” as the Guardian reported.

The iDig program for iPads is being used to record the excavations digitally for the first time in the Aegean, creating, as the Guardian reported, “three-dimensional models using photogrammetry recording of the entire digging process, giving everyone involved access to all data in real time.”

1 Comment

  1. Cant wait to see all the details and find more goodies like possibly a throne room and building equipment.

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