Excavation and restoration works on a tiny Greek islet west of Antiparos, itself a well-known speck of land in the central Aegean, has unearthed the foundations of a temple that archaeologists believe was dedicated to the worship of mythical Apollo during antiquity.
The remains of the temple and other buildings were discovered on the islet of Despotiko, and specifically at the Mantra site. The islet is located less than a kilometer from Antiparos island, separated by a shallow strait.
Moveable objects revealed during this season’s dig on the uninhabited isle included fragments of a marble statue of a “Kore”, a notable type of free-standing archaic Greek sculpture and the marble foot of a “Kouros”, an iconic form depicting a youth or young man in pre-Classical times.
Excavation on Despotiko began in 1997 and has since emerged as one of the most important archeological sites among the Cyclades islands.
Important role in ancient maritime communication routes
Although presently uninhabited, there are significant indications that in prehistoric and ancient times the island – due to its central position among the Cyclades and the large Despotiko Bay (between the island and Antiparos) providing safe anchorage – played an important role in maritime communication routes.
Currently, excavations are taking place in the northwest part of the island and so far the findings are of great importance.
The excavations proved the existence of an important late Archaic sanctuary with abundant objects indicating links to mainland Greece, the Eastern Mediterranean and even to Northern Africa, as well as the continued use of this area in the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Frankish periods.
2015 excavations at the Archaic (6th C BC) sanctuary site on an Aegean Sea islet revealed new evidence about its size and organization.
Ornate façade of a structure
The sanctuary seems to have been devoted to Apollo and archaeologists discovered an ornate façade of a structure measuring 35 meters by 15 meters, suggesting that the sanctuary was extended and rebuilt several times during the Classical and Hellenistic periods.
A large, four-room building on the site’s west section featured a large stone altar in one of the rooms as well as pottery fragments bearing inscriptions with Apollo’s name.
A long wall, stretching from what would have been the islet’s ancient port to the site of the sanctuary, was also revealed.
Some of the artefacts from the excavations are exhibited in the archaeological museum in Parikia, the capital of the nearby island of Paros, along with other important antiquities from the region.
Some glimpses of the early modern and modern history of Despotiko might be reconstructed from historic topographic maps and descriptions of travellers from that period.