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The 2016 excavation
The five year excavation programme at the "Kephala" site on the island of Skiathos was completed in 2016. It is one of the lesser-known sites of Greece and the only one from the Early Iron Age in the Northern Sporades which is undergoing systematic excavation survey. The excavation lasted two weeks (5-17 September 2016) and was conducted by the University of Thessaly, in collaboration with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Magnesia, and headed by Professor A. Mazarakis Ainian and the Honorary Director A. Doulgeri-Intzesiloglou with the contribution of archaeologists E. Chrysopoulou (Ephorate of Antiquities of Magnesia), A. Alexandridou (Free University of Brussels-ULB) and students of archaeology.
The investigations were funded by the University of Thessaly and the Ministry of Culture and supported by the Municipality of Skiathos and various members of the local community. The restoration of movable finds is being undertaken by restorers of the Museum of Volos and the osteological study by Dr Anastasia Papathanasiou.
New finds at the "West Cemetery"
Work was limited (a) to the area of the so-called "West Cemetery" of the Xanemos Bay, along the coast, and (b) to the northwestern slope of the Kephala Hill. The aim was to locate more burials within the cemetery (after the two enchytrisms burials I-II, belonging to children, and a rich shaft burial, III, revealed in the years 2014 and 2015, respectively), as well as to complete the investigation of some structures identified outside the walls of the settlement in 2015.
Thus, three trial trenches were opened in the area of the West Cemetery, on the beach of Xanemos, which exposed two (possibly three) burials.
At a depth of around 0.70m, the disturbed Tomb ΙV/2016 was located. It is a simple shaft grave, where an adult had been buried. Unfortunately, the burial was disturbed. A few bones and pottery sherds (an oinochoe, a krater and a skyphos decorated with pendant semi-circles), found approximately 0.50m higher, might belong to another disturbed burial, namely the Tomb V/2016.
Among the grave-goods of Tomb IV, there are pins of bronze fibulae, a big fragment of a bronze pin with a flat disc-shaped head and a globule, two bronze hair rings, along with sherds of clay vases (oinochoes, an amphoriskos, a hand-made jug).
In the northeastern corner of the trench, but at a higher level, an intact unpainted clay figurine of a bovine and an elongated bone were found in an accumulation of plate-shaped stones. The context of this find is uncertain.
Based on the preliminary dating of some characteristic pots, the above mentioned burials might date back to the Late Protogeometric period (second half of the 10th c. BC).
Another grave (VI/2016) was found just a few meters south of the previous ones and at a greater depth. This is a shaft burial with a north-south orientation (the head of the deceased placed towards the north). The grave was covered by three big plate-shaped stones, and possibly had a roughly dressed stone as a grave marker. A big part of the skeleton was found in situ. An intact black-figured lekythos with a palmette decoration, dating to ca. 490-480 BC, was found beside the scull.
The structures on the slopes of Kephala Hill
On the north-northwestern slope of the settlement a semi-circular structure (Δ1), measuring 3x2m, made of rough stones, was investigated. This "platform" must have served as a base of an upper structure of mud bricks which was not preserved (some burnt mud bricks and accumulations of charcoal were identified). On the structure several shells and a few sherds (not particularly characteristic) were found in association with this structure.
Adjacent to the "platform" a retaining wall of 2.00m in length was revealed, following a NW-SE orientation. It is built of medium sized partly worked stones with smaller ones between them. The wall was built prior to the "platform".
It is difficult to interpret the presence of shells, while the charcoal traces could suggest the existence of a workshop.
Pottery and other finds over and around the structure were scarce, but nevertheless allowed to determine that it was in use in the middle or the third quarter of the 6th c. BC. A few pottery sherds of the 7th c. BC at a lower level might be linked to the retaining wall.
Further to the east, on the slope, and ca. 3m higher, part of a retaining wall (Δ5, revealed at a length of ca. 3m) was investigated. The existence of retaining walls in a zig-zag arrangement on the slope of this hill suggests that the city expanded outside its walls during the Archaic period. This expansion must relate to activities of workshops which would have been located at a distance from the settlement's centre.
The "Kephala" site of Skiathos is of particular significance. The finds which have come to light until now suggest it was an important early settlement of the central Aegean, in the immediate vicinity of Thessaly and Euboea in particular. Skiathos, like the neighbouring islands of the Northern Sporades, must have been the intermediate stop of the Euboean seafarers travelling towards the Thermaic Gulf and the Chalkidiki peninsula. The geographical location of "Kephala" was ideal for the contacts between the central and northern Aegean Sea, not only during the earlier and main phase of the settlement's flourishing, but during the entire period of its existence.
The team of students of the University of Thessaly worked for long periods in the recording of the finds at the Volos Archaeological Museum, under the guidence of Dr Alexandra Alexandridou.
The team of the University of Thessaly consisted of Dr Alexandra Alexandridou, the undergraduate students of the University of Thessaly Atosoglou Katerina, Goudroumpi Vaso, Kalai Foteini-Galateia, Karadimou Athanasia, Kolofotia Eva, Koulaftaki Eleni, Livogianni Polyxeni, Makridou Paraskevi, Mosiou Aggeliki, Prapa Malamati, Profilidis Akis, and also Damsios Panagiotis (University of Thrace) and Kok Katerina (University of Marburg). Eleni Chrysopoulou of the Ministry of Culture participated in the team.
Text translated from Greek by Archaeology @ Arts team, corrected by A. Mazarakis Ainian.
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