In the recent years much progress has been made in the study of the sanctuaries of the Cyclades, both in the field with new excavations and restoration projects and also towards the aim of their publication.

            Fairly recently a synthesis of the Cycladic sanctuaries of the Protogeometric and Geometric period was published (A. Gounaris, Cult places in the Cyclades during the Protogeometric and Geometric Periods, in M. Yeroulanou & M. Stamatopoulou (eds.), Architecture and Archaeology in the Cyclades. Papers in honour of J.J. Coulton, BAR Int. Series 1455, Oxford 2005, 13-68). A more recent Ph.D. thesis has assembled all the available evidence of cult places from the end of the Bronze Age down to the end of the Archaic period (J. Mermoz, La vie religieuse des Cyclades de l’HR IIIC à la fin de la période archaïque, Lyon, Ph.D. Thesis 2010). Despite the fact that it contains minor errors, one of the highlights of this very useful study is that the author has visited most of the sites included in his thesis. More general publications, such as A. Vlachopoulos (ed.), Archaeology. Islands of the Aegean, Athens 2005, or Νάξος, αρμενίζονταςστοχρόνο, Naxos 2006, and M. Alvanou (ed.), Island Identities. The contribution of the Secretariat General for the Aegean & Island Policy to the research and promotion of the culture of the Aegean Archipelago, Mytilene 2013 (in Greek and English, based on the Congress held at the Goulandris Museum in Athens, 25-26 April 2013) are useful as they have articles or chapters concerned with research conducted in the sanctuaries, written by experts. A useful critical study of the inscriptions of certain islands has been published by M. B. Savo, Culti, Sacerdozi e Feste delle Cicladi dall'età arcaica all'età romana I: Io, Nasso, Sifno, Serifo, Citno, Siro, Tored 2004.

            The pioneering excavations of the 1960’s to the mid-1970’s of Zagora on Andros are currently entering a turning point in research through the publication of much expected Zagora 3 , which will be the last volume of the original Australian excavations, directed by Alexander Cambitoglou. Currently, a new phase of field research by the Australian Archaeological Institute is underway (website: These events were also marked by an important colloquium, entitled "Zagora in Context", held in Athens, May 20-22, 2012, the Acts of which are in preparation (eds. J.P. Descoeudres and S. Paspalas). A seminal excavation on the island of Andros during the past decades is that of Hypsile, directed by Christina Televantou. A small booklet summarising the results and comprising the earlier bibliography has been recently published (C. Televantou, Άνδρος, ΗαρχαίαπόλητηςΥψηλής, Athens 2008), but much of what has been found remains unpublished. Hypsile is extremely important not only for the study of early cults in the Cyclades, but also because it is perhaps the best preserved settlement not only of the Geometric but also of the Early Archaic period too. Andros is perhaps the island with the best preserved early settlements and together with the significant work conducted at Palaiopolis (see recently L. Palaiokrassa-Kopitsa (ed.), ΠαλαιόποληΆνδρου. Είκοσιχρόνιαανασκαφικήςέρευνας, Athens 2007) we are lucky to possess significant data allowing us to understand complex issues, such as the act of synoecism and the nature and reasons of persistence of cults and rituals in places which had been abandoned by their inhabitants.

            Major advances for our knowledge of the earlier stages of formation of the Cycladic sanctuaries have occurred thanks to the excavations of the University of Athens directed by Nota Kourou at Xobourgo on Tenos, following the footsteps of Nikolaos Kontoleon. The past decade or so, an important cult place, allowing to observe the transition from an open air cult to a roofed temple has been revealed. The main element of the cult was the lighting of fire in pits in which offerings were thrown during a ritual. This open air cult was soon replaced by a probably roofed building (a “Sacred House”, as qualified by the excavator), decorated with the so far earliest known clay frieze with figured decoration (N. Kourou, Ten Years of Archaeological Research at Xobourgo (Island of Tenos in the Cyclades), Bulletin of the AAIA 3, 2005, 23-29; id., The Dawn of Images and Cultural Identity: The Case of Tenos, in Alba del-la città, alba delle immagini ? Da una suggestione di Bruno d'Agostino, Tripodes 7, 2008, 63-90; id., From the Dark Ages to the Rise of the Polis in the Cyclades the Case of Tenos, in A. Mazarakis Ainian (ed.), The Dark Ages Revisited, Volos 2011).

            Concerning the sanctuaries of the towns of Koressos, Ioulis and Poioessa on Kea, the basics have not changed since the 1990ies (see T. M. Whitelaw, J. L. Davis, The Polis Center of Koressos, in J. F. Cherry, J.L. Davis, E. Mantzourani (eds.), Landscape Archeology as Long-Term History, Northen Keos in the Cycladic Islands, Los Angeles 1991; and various articles in L. Mendoni & A. Mazarakis Ainian (eds.), Kea-Kythnos: History and Archaeology, Athens 1998). On Karthaia on the other hand, at the sites of the sanctuaries of Apollo and "Athena", the restoration works, conducted under the consecutive direction of V. Lambrinoudakis and E. Simantoni-Bournia between 2001-2009, have not only changed the appearance of the site but have also led to significant results allowing a better understanding of the history of the two urban sanctuaries. These have been published in a lavishly illustrated small book, written in three languages (Greek, English and French) (E. Simantoni-Bournia, L.G. Mendoni, T.-M. Panagou, Καρθαία ... ἐλαχύνωτονστέρνονχθονός..., Athens 2009). The restoration work within the Doric peripteral temple of "Athena" led to a better understanding of the three phases of the temenos and the edifice, from the late 6th century to the early 5th. Evidence beneath the pteron and the cella has proven that cult activities and a first retaining wall, date to at least the middle of the 6th century B.C. The Classical Doric propylon and Building D (a prostyle Doric building) were also restored. The latter presents two phases, dated in the 5th ("proto-D") and late 4th/early 3rd centuries B.C. The edifice may have been either a Prytaneion or a Bouleuterion. The restoration work at the temple of Apollo Pythios, also led to some interesting results. There were six columns in antis in the prostasis, and the order would have been Doric. A small side doorway was found at the end of the long North wall. The date of construction of the temple, ca. 530 B.C., based until know on the architectural details, was confirmed by the discovery of pottery in its foundation trenches.

            The sanctuaries of the island of Kythnos have been the focus of intensive investigations since 2001, by the University of Thessaly under the direction of the author, in collaboration of the Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Cyclades (website: A series of sub- and extra-urban sanctuaries have been located, several thanks to Adonis Kyrou, who guided us to them. These have now been mapped and are currently under study by the author and Dora Papagellopoulou of the Ephorate. The urban sanctuaries of the ancient capital of the island, the homonymous Kythnos (today called Vryokastro) have been published in a preliminary form in L. Mendoni & A. Mazarakis Ainian (eds.), Kea-Kythnos: History and Archaeology, Athens 1998; the sanctuary of Demeter on the acropolis formed part of the unpublished Ph.D. thesis of C. Mitsopoulou (ΤοιερότηςΔήμητραςστηνΚύθνοκαιτοαττικόελευσινιακόσκεύος, Univ. of Athens 2007; see also id., Το ιερό της Δήμητρας στην Κύθνο και η μίσθωση του ελευσινιακού τεμένους, in I. Leventi & C. Mitsopoulou (eds.), ΙεράκαιλατρείεςτηςΔήμητραςστοναρχαίοελληνικόκόσμο, ΠανεπιστήμιοΘεσσαλίας, Athens 2010, 43-90). In 2002 and thereon until 2006, an important discovery was made, that of the unplundered inner sanctum ("adyton") of a temple of the North extremity of the Middle Plateau of the city of Kythnos, dated in the Archaic period. The back room of the Doric temple was full with offerings in precious metals, mostly jewels, and a great variety of luxurious objects, dated mostly from the seventh to the early fifth centuries B.C., though certain objects date back to the Early Iron Age and there were also "antiques" dating to the Late Bronze Age. The finds in the "adyton" were perhaps re-positioned there during the Hellenistic period, following a damage of the temple by an earthquake. A second violent destruction some time later led to the final collapse of the edifice and the preservation of its contents up to the present day.

            The opulence of the finds both from within the temple as well as from the large votive deposit discovered nearby is impressive. The offerings, mostly jewels, were of gold, silver, bronze, bone and ivory, carnelian, rock crystal, glass paste, faience, amber, semi-precious stones etc. A number of imports from all over the Aegean World, as well as the East and West Mediterranean (Phoenician, Egyptian, South Italian) were also found. Among the finds there were significant numbers of terracotta seated female figurines. The pottery was broken though several vases were intact, coming from various production centres of the Aegean (the Cyclades, East Greece and Ionia, Corinth, Athens and Attics). Some of the Athenian black figure vases may be linked to master painters.

            Judging by the character of the finds and the architectural layout of the sanctuary (double sacred "oikos" and two altars standing on the side next to it) the cult may have been addressed to two divinities. Apollo and Artemis are likely candidates (this hypothesis is also supported by a few graffiti, which however are not conclusive). The study and publication which are well under way will contribute towards a better understanding of ancient Greek cult practices. Preliminary studies have appeared: A. Mazarakis Ainian, Inside the adyton of a Greek temple: Excavations on Kythnos (Cyclades), in Μ. Geroulanou & M. Stamatopoulou (eds.), Architecture and Archaeology in the Cyclades, Colloquium in honour of J.J. Coulton, Oxford University, April 16-17, 2004, Oxford 2005, 87-103; id. Réflexions sur les systèmes votifs aux sanctuaires de Kythnos (Cyclades), in C. Prêtre (ed.), Le donateur, l'offrande et la déesse. Lille 13-15/12/2007, KernosSuppl. 23, 2009, 287-318; id., Ein antikes Heiligtum auf Kythnos, in H. Frielinghaus & J. Stroszeck (eds.), Neuen Funden in griechischen Städten und Heiligtümern. Kolloquium. 4.-5. Nov. 2005. Univ. Regensburg (Festschrift Bernard Wesenberg) Wiesbaden 2010, 21-53; id. with C. Mitsopoulou, Από την επιφανειακή έρευνα στην ανασκαφή. Το ιερό της αρχαίας Κύθνου, in E. Konsolaki (ed.), ΕΠΑΘΛΟΝ. Αρχαιολογικό Συνέδριο προς τιμήν του Άδωνι Κ. Κύρου, Πόρος, 7-9 Ιουνίου 2002, Athens 2007, 301-374. Several collaborators have either finished their MA thesis on the study of certain categories of finds (M. Panagou on the Corinthian pottery, C. Koukoulidou on the silver jewelry, D. Vai on the bone and ivory offerings, all in 2008, while M. Koutsoumpou has presented the Orientalising pottery from the sanctuary in two symposia, at the British School at Athens (2012) and the University of Amsterdam (2013), the acts of which are in preparation; T. Theodoropoulou also published a synthesis of the mollusks and corals from the sanctuary in (The sea in the temple? Seashells from the sanctuary of the ancient town of Kythnos and other marine stories of cult, in G. Ekroth, J. Hjohlman (eds), Bones, behaviour and belief. The osteological evidence as a source for Greek ritual practice, Skrifter utgivna av Svenska Institutet i Athen, in press). A joint publication of the Kythnos excavation is in preparation and will be published by the end of 2014.

            The double temple with its two altars stood on a massive terrace which on its turn was bordered by a monumental terrace wall, more than 60 metres long. The latter may belong to the Hellenistic period and seems to mark the monumental reorganization of the entire upper plateau of the ancient city, allowing large-scale communal gatherings. It cannot be excluded that the Agora of the Kythnians was situated here. This idea is further strengthened by the discovery and excavation (from 2009 to the present day) a few metres lower down the slope of a large public edifice dated in the late Classical and Hellenistic period The architectural layout and the finds, which include votive offerings and official lead weights and measures of the Kythnians, suggest that the edifice may have been a Prytaneion. The pottery was presented by Yula Tsiloyanni,Ελληνιστική κεραμεική από το Κτίριο 5 της αρχαίας πόλης της Κύθνου, in the Θ' Meeting of Hellenistic Pottery held in Thessaloniki between 5-9/12/2012.

            Important work has been conducted on the island of Siphnos by the Ephorate of the Cyclades, by Zozi Papadopoulou and Christina Televantou, as well as by other researchers (see recently ΠρακτικάΓ' ΔιεθνούςΣιφνιακούΣυμποσίου, Σίφνος 29.6-2.7.2006, Athens 2009). Z. Papadopoulou has conducted a new study of the Kastro, especially its fortification walls (Z. Papadopoulou, ΣιφνίωνΆστυ, Athens 2002?; id., Νέα στοιχεία για την ακρόπολη του αρχαίου άστεως της Σίφνου, in ΠρακτικάΓ' ΔιεθνούςΣιφνιακούΣυμποσίου, Athens 2009, 41-56; see also N. Kourou, Πότνια και Εκβατηρία. Παραλλαγές της Λατρείας της Aρτέμιδος στη Σίφνο, in Πρακτικά B' ΔιεθνούςΣιφνιακούΣυμποσίου, Σίφνος 27-30.6.2002, Athens 2004, 227-242), while Athena Tsingarida is currently studying afresh the old finds of the British excavations at the site, including the material from the votive deposit of the acropolis, usually associated with Artemis. Ch. Telavantou completed an important excavation and restoration project at the inland fortified acropolis of Ay. Andreas. The new excavations there led to the discovery of an "urban" sanctuary, presenting several building phases from the Geometric to the Classical period. The excavator suggests that here too Artemis Εκβατήρια was also worshipped (C. Televantou, Ακρόπολη Αγίου Ανδρέα Σίφνου. Οι πρόσφατες έρευνες, in Πρακτικά Γ' Διεθνούς Σιφνιακού Συμποσίου, Athens 2009,23-40).

            At Syros Mariza Marthari has conducted excavations at the coastal settlement of Galissas in the mid 90's. There is not much information yet, though from an Early Archaic graffito, found earlier (in 1979) it seems that there may have been a sanctuary here dedicated either to Poseidon or, more likely, to Demeter. (M.-B. Savo, op. cit., 406-407, 416-417, 480; J. Mermoz, op. cit., 269-270) (indeed Poseidon seem to have been rarely worshipped in the Cyclades during the Archaic period).

            The final publication of Minoa on Amorgos by Lila Marangou constitutes an up to date acute synthesis of the research conducted for more than two decades at one of the tree poleis of the island and its urban sanctuaries and cult places (L. Marangou, ΑμοργόςΙ:ηΜινώα: ηπόλις, ολιμήνκαιημείζωνπεριφέρεια Athens 2002).

            Most important in later years were the discoveries by the late Charalampos Sigalas of a number of Archaic cult places in the periphery of the ancient capital of Thera. The cult building dedicated to Aphrodite and possibly Eilythia near the ancient town(Ch. Sigalas, Un sanctuaire d’Aphrodite à Thera, Kernos 13 (2000) 241-245), previously considered to have been a tomb, has yielded a multitude of offerings, including several from the East Mediterranean, dating from the Geometric to the Roman period; the Archaic Π-shaped Achilleion at the harbour of Kamari produced mostly drinking vases of the sixth century B.C. (C. Sigalas & A. Matthaiou, Ενεπíγραφα όστρακα από το Ηρώον του Αχιλλέως στην Θήρα, Horos, 14-16, 2000-2002, 259-268). At the necropolis of Sellada a possible Heraion of the eighth through fifth centuries B.C. has also been excavated (M. Efstathiou, Θήα. Αρχαíα Θήρα. Κτíριο Σελλάδας, ΑΔ 53, 1998, B’3, 806 - originally identified as a possible Thesmophoreion).

            The important field and restoration works, as well as studies on the island of Naxos by Vassilis Lambrinoudakis, Manolis Korres, Gottfried Gruben and many more are well known. In the more recent years it is the excavation and the preservation of the rural sanctuary at Melanes (V. K. Lambrinoudakis, A new early Archaic building on Naxos. Some thoughts on the Oikos of the Naxians on Delos, in M. Yeroulanou & M. Stamatopoulou (eds.), Architecture and Archaeology in the Cyclades. Papers in honour of J.J. Coulton, BAR Int. Series 1455, Oxford 2005, 79-86) which was added to the long list of such places on the island, such as Sangri, Hyria and Palatia and Mitropolis Square at the Chora (see in general V. K. Lambrinoudakis, The emergence of the city-state of Naxos in the Aegean, M.-C. Lentini (ed.), The two Naxos Cities: a Fine Link between the Aegean Sea and Sicily, Palermo 2001, 13-22).

            The old synthesis of the monuments of Paros by D. Berranger, Recherches sur l’histoire et la prosopograhie de Paros à l’époque archaïque, Clermont Ferrand 1992 remains the main synthesis about the history and the archaeology of the island, as well as the numerous publications of the Munich Technical University team led by the late G. Gruben, and A. Ohnesorg (fairly recently see Ph. Zapheiropoulou, Recent finds from Paros, in M. Stamatopoulou & M. Yeroulanou (eds), Excavating Classical Culture, BAR International Series 1031, Oxford 2002, 281-284; A. Ohnesorg. Naxian and Parian architecture. General features and new discoveries, M. Yeroulanou & M. Stamatopoulou (eds), Architecture and Archaeology in the Cyclades. Papers in honour of J.J.Coulton, BAR Int. Series 1455, Oxford2005, 146-147). The site of Koukounaries, excavated in the 1970's and 80's by D. Schilardi is on the way of being included in a restoration-enhancing project which will also facilitate the long awaited publication of the Late geometric and Archaic temple of Athena (for a fairly recent summary see D.V. Schilardi, The Emergence of Paros the Capital, Pallas 58, 2002, 229-240).

           Despotiko (ancient Prepesinthos) is perhaps the sanctuary which has attracted the greatest publicity during the last decade. The latest publication is a synthetic book by Y. Kourayos, Despotiko. The Sanctuary of Apollo, Athens 2012, lavishly illustrated, which summarizes the excavations at the site up to 2012. The excavations are ongoing and are focusing lately in uncovering the earlier history of the Geometric-Archaic sanctuary. The sanctuary was doubtless dedicated to the cult of Apollo and Artemis and reached its peak during the second half of the sixth century B.C. This extra-urban sanctuary of Paros, despite the fact that it was ignored by the ancient sources, may be compared both in its extent and its wealth to the sanctuary of Apollo on Delos. According to Kourayos the Parians would have defined their territory with this sanctuary, though it is more likely that the Parians had in mind in creating a panionian sanctuary equally important as the one on Delos, which was seemingly in the beginning under the influence of their rivals, the Naxians, rather than theirs. One could suggest that when Paros was able to play a more influential role in the Delian sanctuary and afterwards Athens interfered in its control, the interest to develop further this "rival" sanctuary gradually diminished; as a consequence the sanctuary which was thriving in the second half of the sixth century, started declining thereafter, especially after the Persian wars (see Y. Kourayos, Despotiko Mandra. A Sanctuary dedicated to Apollo, in Μ. Geroulanou, M. Stamatopoulou (eds.), Architecture and Archaeology in the Cyclades, Colloquium in honour of J.J. Coulton, Oxford University, April 16-17, 2004, Oxford 2005, 105-133; id., The Archaic Sanctuary of Apollo on the Island Despotiko, in Colloque de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 30-31 Janvier 2004. Les client de la céramique grecque, Cahiers du CVA no1, Paris 2006, 59–67; Y. Kourayos, B.E. Burns. Exploration of the Archaic Sanctuary at Despotiko Mandra, BCH 128/129 (2004-2005) 128-129, 133-174).

            Delos continues to be the sanctuary par excellence of the Cyclades towards which one always refers to. The critical review of all the publications up to 1996 by Philippe Jockey is still today extremely useful (Le sanctuaire de Délos à l'époque archaïque. Bilan historiographique et bibliographique, Topoi 6 (1996) 159-197). The publication of P. Chatzidakis, Δήλος, Αthens 2003 with its outstanding illustrations is an invaluable resource for the study of both the monuments and the finds. The Geometric and Early Archaic pottery from the sanctuary of Apollo is under study by Thomas Brisart. Highly informative for understanding early Delos, and the Archaic Cyclades in general, is the study by A. Coulié, Histoire et archéologie des Cyclades à travers la céramique archaïque : à propos d'un ouvrage récent, Revue archéologique, 2005/2 n° 40, 255-281). An interesting discussion of the history of the sanctuary during the Archaic and Classical periods can be found in C. Constantakopoulou, The Dance of the Islands. Insularity, Networks, the Athenian Empire, and the Aegean World, Oxford 2007, 38-60.

            It is hoped that the research project on the Archaic sanctuaries of the Cyclades and the joint publication which is in preparation, will manage to fill the gaps in our knowledge, especially by presenting unpublished data from old and new excavations, but also by setting these results within a wider framework, taking into account a number of current theoretical approaches.


Published as, Archaic Sanctuaries of the Cyclades: Research of the Last Decade, in Z. Archibald (ed.), Archaeological Reports for 2012-2013, pp. 96-102

Selective bibliography up to 1997: Λίνα Μενδώνη, Δημήτρης Δημητρόπουλος, Ιουλία Εξαρχουλέα, Χρυσάνθη Τζαβαλή, Φωτεινή Μυρίλου, and Γιώργος Α Ζάχος, Ιστορία του τοπίου και τοπικές ιστορίες: από το φυσικό περιβάλλον στο ιστορικό τοπίο. Πιλοτική εφαρμογή στις Κυκλάδες. Επιλεκτική βιβλιογραφία. Αθήνα: Κέντρο Ελληνικής και Ρωμαϊκής Αρχαιότητος - ΕΙΕ, 1997.