Skarkos - The Prehistoric Settlement

Skarkos – The Prehistoric Settlement

Welcome to Ios, one of the Cyclades Islands! Today most visitors come to the Cyclades for vacation. Five thousand years ago, people came for trade and commerce. They sought volcanic obsidian to make tools and other natural resources such as lead and copper. Many settlements flourished in the Cyclades, part of a network that stretched across the Aegean Sea. One of the most important of these settlements was Skarkos on Ios.

The archaeological site of Skarkos lies on a hill in western Ios, overlooking one of the finest natural harbors in the Cyclades. The flat plain surrounding Skarkos is the best agricultural land on the island.

Greek archaeologist Marisa Marthari excavated Skarkos from 1986-1997. Her excavations revealed that the site was inhabited from about 2800 BC to 2300 BC, during what archaeologists call the Early Bronze Age or Early Cycladic II period.

The well-built houses of Skarkos were arranged closely together around narrow streets and squares. The ground floors, doorways, and stairways can still be seen today. Most buildings had second stories, with some stone walls preserved up to 4 meters (13 feet) high. The excavators discovered many artifacts, including pottery, stone tools, and figurines. Some of these finds can be seen at the Ios Archaeological Museum.

Skarkos prospered because it lay at the junction of key trading routes that linked the Cyclades with mainland Greece, Crete, and Asia Minor. Early Bronze Age sailors used paddled boats with limited range. They had to stop at harbors such as Skarkos to get supplies and totrade. The people of Skarkos imported beverages, perfumed oils, or other liquids in pottery containers. They exported finished products such as obsidian tools.
Skarkos was abandoned about 2300 BC, possibly after an earthquake. Centuries later, people dug some graves into the hill, but the site was never resetttled. That explains why the remains are so well preserved.

During 2003-2009, conservation work was carried out to preserve the site for the future and make it accessible to visitors. In 2008 the site received a European Union Prize for excellence in cultural heritage conservation.

We invite you to visit the archaeological site of Skarkos and experience the ancient remains for yourself. As you explore Skarkos, imagine the sights and sounds of a busy harbor town, full of sailors, traders, artisans, and farmers.

— Text by Prof. John W.I. Lee, University of California at Santa Barbara

Σκάρκος Ἰου
Προϊστορικός χώρος του Σκάρκου στην Ιο
Early Cycladic Art and Culture
Marthari, Marisa. 2005. “Middle Cycladic and early Late Cycladic cemeteries and their Minoan
elements: the case of the cemetery at Skarkos on Ios” in C. MacDonald, E. Hallager, and
W. Niemeier eds., The Minoans in the central, eastern, and northern Aegean—new
evidence, pp. 41-58. Athens.
Marthari, Marisa. 2008. “Aspects of pottery circulation in the Cyclades during the EB II Period:
fine and semi-fine imported ceramic wares at Skarkos, Ios” in N. Brodie, J. Doole, G.
Gavalas, and C. Renfrew eds., Horizon/Ὁρίζων: a colloquium on the prehistory of the
Cyclades, pp. 71-84. Cambridge, UK.