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A lecture by Archaeologist Yannos Kourayos ‘Paros and the Archaic Sanctuary of Apollo on the Island of Despotiko’ At New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
On October 15, the Consulate General of Greece in New York gave its auspices to a lecture on the archaeological importance of an ancient sanctuary, located on an inhabited isle of the Cyclades called Despotiko. The lecture took place at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and it was delivered by Archaeologist Yannos Kourayos.
The lecture follows the opening (October 10) of the Consulate’s photography exhibition ‘The People of Despotiko’ by Mary Chatzakis, which focuses on the people who have been working on the excavation and restoration project on the isle.
Right next to the more famous islands of Paros and Antiparos, Despotiko isle has drawn the attention of archaeology enthusiasts in recent years, after excavations uncovered a religious site of major significance, dating from the Archaic Period. The site encompasses a large temple dedicated to the Greek god Apollo along with other ceremonial buildings and is now considered to have been of equal, if not greater, importance to the famous sanctuary of Delos. The excavation project is headed by Yannos Kourayos, a Greek archaeologist with vast experience and rich knowledge of the area.
Kourayos began his excavation at Despotiko in the summer of 1997 but before him, the first exploration was led by archaeologist Christos Tsountas in the 19th century and another one was conducted by Nikos Zafeiropoulos in 1959. Kourayos discovered in 1997 an extensive archaic shrine devoted to Apollo, thitherto unknown from any written ancient source until then.
In the Archaic period, the people of Paros built a sanctuary in Despotiko devoted to the cult of Apollo, as well as his sister Artemis and the goddess Hestia, the virgin goddess of the hearth, the domestic affairs, and home. The reason behind the choice of this specific location for the religious complex probably lied in the effort to establish their dominance in the Aegean, especially as part of their rivalry with the island of Naxos. In the Classical period, the Athenian Miltiades, under the pretext that the people of Paros had supported the Persians during the Persian invasion of Greece, led an unsuccessful Athenian campaign against the island of Paros (which also encompassed Antiparos and Despotiko) which had been conquered by the Persians. The islet was also partially burnt down by French pirates in the17th century.
According to the archaeologists working on the site, together with Greek, European and American researchers, the islet of Despotiko will be gradually turned into an open-air museum, as is the case with Delos, and it will become accessible to the public.