The ancient Greek sanctuary of Despotiko, located on an uninhabited islet south of Antiparos, is amongst the most important discoveries of recent times.
According to several archaeologists, Despotiko might have been as important as Ancient Delos during antiquity.
At the site, which has been excavated since 1997, an extensive settlement has been discovered, including a temple dedicated to the God Apollo.
Despotiko lies about seven hundred meters southwest of the shores of Antiparos. It is situated practically right in the middle of the Cyclades, and, on clear days, it is possible to see the other surrounding islands from Despotiko.
Currently, the island is accessible only by boats from the island of Antiparos.
The strait separating Despotiko from Antiparos is only about a meter deep, and the islet of Tsimintiri is situated between the two.
The strait is, therefore, extremely shallow. This might be because there could have been a link between Antiparos and Despotiko in ancient times. According to several scientists, Paros, Antiparos, and Despotiko were all connected into a single land mass thousands of years ago.
Archaeologists say the earliest indications of activity on the island date back to the Early Iron Age while the period of greatest prosperity is documented to have been around the middle of the 6th century BC.
It was during that time that the 1,600 square meter temple of Apollo was likely constructed. Alongside the temple, there were other ceremonial buildings, a banqueting hall (hestiatorion), and an aqueduct.
Excavations at the Ancient Greek Sanctuary of Despotiko
Excavations have revealed eighty-eight fragments of marble kouroi, the free-standing Ancient Greek sculptures that depict nude male figures. In addition, forty marble bases of statues of different types have been uncovered.
Excavations have also unearthed plenty of ceramic artifacts from the archaic and classical period, including vases, basins, bottles, lamps, pots, and amphorae. Metallic objects were also found. These were all estimated to be from the 6th century BC.
The project is headed by Yannos Kourayos, a Greek archaeologist with vast experience and a wealth of knowledge in the field.
In a recent interview, Kourayos compared the importance of the sanctuaries of Despotiko and Delos.
“Delos was under the influence of Naxos and later Athens although there also offerings— i.e. sculptures—from Paros,” the Greek archaeologist told Greek News Agenda. “What we now see in Delos is a Hellenistic and Roman town; so in…Archaic times, Despotiko’s temple must have been more important and probably attracted more worshippers from the surrounding islands and Asia Minor, compared to the one on Delos.”
Indicative of the size of the sanctuary was the unveiling of an extensive and complex water collection and management system in 2020 consisting of reservoirs and a built conduit. The conduit ran down the hill and all the way south of the sanctuary.
In 2016, a human skeleton was found. Archaeologists believe it to be the remains of a worker from approximately 550 BC.
Due to the contracted position of the buried skeleton in the ground, archaeologists assume that it could have been a worker who was working on the north temple wall.
“It is likely the skeleton of a worker because he was buried without offerings,” said Kourayos. “He seems to have died during work on the north wall in 550 BC and was buried at that point.”
Future plans involve turning the site into an open-air museum. Current construction projects, including the building of concrete walkways, will allow visitors to walk around the site.
Excavation findings from Despotiko are exhibited in the local Archaeological Museum in Parikia, the port town of Paros.
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