Left: A Cycladic figurine dating back to about 3000 BCE; photo courtesy of Mendel Art
(Athens, Greece) A team of archaeologists is preparing for one of the most important digs in recent years on the island of Keros in the Cyclades, an chain in Aegean Sea. They are searching for artifacts that will more fully illuminate the history of Cycladic culture, a unique group of Neolithic societies that formed before 4000 BCE.
The marble figurines for which Cycladic culture is best known have been largely looted by fortune-seekers, and there is a thriving market for these rare antiquities. Most of the figurines have been removed from gravesites.
Cycladic settlements tended to be located on coastal sites; the earliest known villages did not possess walls or towers. The rise of a Mediterranean pirates culture likely forced the Cycladites to relocate into the interior of the islands, and later settlements emerged in the hills, fortified with walls and towers.
These small islands supported populations of up to several thousand people, and Cycladic culture thrived until being eclipsed by the Minoan culture of Crete.