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The settlements of the Cycladic culture

During the Neolithic age, human settlement on Naxos was probably still sparse. In the Early Bronze age, on the other hand, large areas of the island were inhabited: numerous sites have been found, especially along the south coast of the island from Moutsoúna via Pánormos and the southwest (e.g. Agiassós, Kastráki, Mikrí Vígla and Ágia Ánna) up to the Chóra; other sites have been discovered in the north and in the interior of the island (e.g. near Mélanes, Sangrí, Engarés, Liónas, Apóllonas). The Small Cyclades adjoining to the south and the east, such as Koufonísi and Kéros, were also densely populated with an important and unique centre on the now uninhabited island of Kéros.

In the first phase of the Early Bronze age, the people of the Cyclades lived in small family groups, as is shown by the cemeteries, each containing only a few graves. This means that they inhabited single houses or tiny settlements. The small houses were rectangular and had often two rooms. They were built of uncarved stones with earth as mortar; the roof probably consisted of reed and wood covered with earth. During the second phase of the Cycladic culture the population increased and the settlements grew in number and size; they now comprised up to several dozen dwellings.

Korfari ton Amygdalion Panormos
On the Cyclades exist only few and isolated remains of Bronze age settlements, here the small Bronze age acropolis on the Korphári ton Amygdalión near Pánormos.

A remarkable peculiarity of the Early Bronze age settlements is that the houses were usually all of the same size and quality: No larger building can be identified as the dwelling of a leader, prince or king. Apparently all people were equal.

Threats from pirates

Since the beginning of the Cycladic culture, some fortified settlements can be found testifying that some threat existed. During the third phase almost all settlements are fortified, i.e. they are protected by thick enclosing walls with projecting bastions. Many of the settlements lie on more or less steep hilltops, or are arranged in such a way that they were not visible from the sea.

Of the fortified settlements of the Cyclades some have been conquered (e.g. the small fortress of Korphári ton Amygdalión in Pánormos). It is not entirely clear who the attackers were, possibly intruders from one of the surrounding regions. However, is it nowhere apparent that a different population settled after the attacks. So it seems most likely that the settlements were attacked by pirates. The earliest mention of pirates can be found in mythology which tells us that Tyrrhenian pirates abducted the god Dionysus near Ikaria. The ancient historian Thucydides reports that piracy existed in the Aegean since the beginning of shipping, with them main goal of the pirates being the acquisition of food. King Minos succeeded in stopping the piracy by bringing the islands under his rule.

Korfari ton Amygdalion Panormos
the entrance to the small acropolis in Panormos

Scattered settlements in Cycladic style can also be found in the neighbouring regions, in Asia Minor, Crete and on the Greek mainland; these were probably trading settlements of the Cycladic people.

next: Crafts and techniques

see also: The Early Bronze age acropolis in Panormos

back to the Cycladic culture

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