Island Dia (2010-)

The archaeological survey of Dia, the deserted island in the Cretan Sea off the city and harbour of Iraklion, started in 2010, following an agreement between the University of Crete and the former Municipality of Gouves (now the Chersonisos Municipality). It aims to observe and decipher general and specific cultural traits of this islandscape from Prehistory to recent times, and assess its place and significance in the historical context of Crete, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean. The project has research and educational purposes: the fieldwork team consists mainly of under- and postgraduate students, and even graduates of the Department of History and Archaeology of the University, at Rethymno. discovered

Evidence from the first two fieldwork seasons involves data on the island’s geological environment and archaeological features. Among the latter, very characteristic are the dry stone structures which are spread widely across the insular landscape. They include: a dense, composite network of walls apparently defining and delimiting past dwellings and their plots of land exploitation; farmsteads and their annexes and enclosures; numerous piles of rough stones, usually in clusters; and a massive defence wall, discovered by C. Kritzas and reported by S. Alexiou in the 1970s.

Other architectural remains comprise: the foundation walls of buildings, at least two plastered cisterns that are parts of an ancient system of water supply, five lime kilns and a possible watch tower. The diachronic settlement patterns that we are starting to recognise show: inhabitation both on the coast and inland, especially in the western and central parts opposite Crete – and most of all on the bay of Agios Georgios, where at least two large Minoan buildings and a long-lived harbour site have been detected; some religious monuments, notably the foundations of a basilica next to the mid-20th century church of the Ascension; an ancient network of paths; and recent structures that are all in an advanced state of decay.

Movable finds consist of: abundant chipped stone material in local flints and, notably, Melian obsidian, which make Dia a true prehistoric island-workshop for lithics; frequent and often rich scatters of pottery, mainly sherds of small and medium-sized vessels, plain and decorated; fragments of glass- and, seldom, metal artefacts; bricks and tiles; two coins of the 17th century; a few Turkish pipes; and much shrapnel from World War II artillery shells. They all range from Neolithic to modern times – with an emphasis on the Early Bronze Age, followed by the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman periods.

The preliminary results of our investigation thus reveal a comprehensive chronological sequence on Dia, and confirm and complete the extremely scarce previous archaeological information. Of great interest for prehistorians is a conspicuous cultural emphasis on the 3rd millennium, when human activity appears directed to Crete but also to the Cyclades, as it is reflected in the island’s pottery, some monuments, mainly “Kritzas’s/Alexiou’s wall”, and the intensive use of obsidian from Melos for making tools.


Kopaka  K., Epifaneiaki erevna sti niso Ntia. Prokatarktikes ektheseis ton periodon 2010 kai 2012, Αriadne 18, 2012, 435–68.