Ikaria’s New Archaeological Museum and Collection
Ikaria's ancient history is wonderfully showcased in the new Archaeological Museum in Agios Kyrikos and the Archaeological Collection in Kampos. Visit at least one, and try to get to both, to better understand Ikaria's veneration of Dionysus and the grape vine, its early trade routes that extended to Asian Minor and beyond, and rituals, settlements and styles that cultivated Ikaria's special flair.
The Archaeological Museum in Agios Kyrikos
Hours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 08:30 – 15:00
Languages: Greek and English
Winding up the center of Ag. Kyrikos, climbing a set of stone stairs and venturing through back roads, you can find the long awaited new Archaeological Museum. (Also accessible by car.) The museum is situated in a neoclassical building, which served as the first secondary school for the island.
Findings date as far back as the 5th millennium B.C. and lead visitors chronologically through ancient periods thereafter. Findings come from settlements all over Ikaria, including the Temple of Artemis Tauropolos (located in Nas), Oinoe (located in Kampos), Drakano (located on Ikaria's eastern edge) and others. Handmade tools, figurines, spindles, incense burners, lamps, funerary stele and other artifacts breath life into the island's layers of history, ancient rituals, styles and influences.
My Personal Favorites in the Museum:
- Amphorae dating from the Classical Period to the Early Bronze Age, which stored oil, wine, salted fish and other things and arrived on Ikaria via ancient sea trade. Look for the rare amphorae from the Palestine - Egypt region.
- The Stele of Katafygi, depicting a seated female figure with a naked infant in her arms, two other children and two standing males. The museum description states it is one of the most important reliefs of the “Severe Style” with a realistic and balanced rendering of human nature.
- A large collection of small, decorated oil lamps found at Drakano. Imagine what it would have looked like, when Ikaria’s eastern edge lit up with these during the ancient ‘hour of lamp-lighting’!
- Terracotta female protomes (busts), found in a grave, which may be depicting female goddesses or mortal women.
Film: The museum has a short film about the history of Ikaria (in Greek with English subtitles). Ask for a viewing!
The Archaeological Collection in Kampos
The Archaeological Collection in Kampos is a small, but special collection. Sometimes I find that such collections, with their intimate, boutique atmosphere, leave an even stronger impression on me. As you curve around the main road in Kampos, look towards the sea in the village bend to find the entrance way to the Collection. The Collection's building also sits among interesting layers of ruins (read below).
Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (08:30 – 15:00)
Languages: Greek. (If you don’t speak Greek, the caretaker will do his best to highlight the collection to you.)
My Personal Favorites in the Collection:
- A special drinking vessel used for Dionysian festivals.
- The symbol of the horse visible on a funeral stele and also on a carved handle.
- Grape vines (symbol of Dionysus) carved in stone and on mosaic fragments.
- An ancient jewelry box and also a mirror that also could have been used as a reflector for giving warning.
Walk around the Grounds! Before the building grounds first stood an ancient temple to either Artemis or Dionysus. The Roman period is visible in bits of mosaic fragments. The temple is thought to have been later destroyed by pirates. The site was then used for the creation of a Basilica in the 4th century A.D. A church followed in the 11-12th century, utilizing parts of the foundational structure of the Basilica.
As originally constructed, St Irini church was adorned with iconography. However, this was followed by a period in which icons could not be shown (“Iconoclasm”), and thus the walls of the church were painted over. Find where circles mark hidden icons of the twelve apostles and the 4 evangelists on the walls. Why hasn’t the overcoat of paint been removed? I was told that the restoration work is very expensive and so for now it is not possible. Look down around the floor and you’ll see a stone symbol in the shape of a star. There is a second symbol closer to the front. An important icon in the church is of Saint Ephraim.
Don’t forget the Odeion! On a very short walk to the left behind the Collection building you will find some ruins of a Roman Odeion.
* Both the Museum and Collection were free to visit, at the time of writing this article.