Friday, September 2, 2011
The Leukos Survey Project, Karpathos, 2011
the offshore islet of Sokastro, a fortification wall protected an elaborate complex of many barrel-vaulted cisterns and at least one church; the date for construction is not yet ascertained but the sherd cover dates to the 11th, mostly 12th, and 13th centuries. It will take some time to analyze the field data, including over 2,000 aerial images of Sokastro alone.
Canadian research activity at Leukos is not certain, although not for any lack of potential. Years ago the Greek Service had the foresight to acquire a large tract of land along the shore to protect it from development and so it shelters an undisturbed Early Byzantine harbour town. In contrast to ancient written sources, there is recent and accumulating archaeological evidence throughout the Dodecanese for widespread prosperity in the Late Antique/Early Byzantine period, primarily dozens of paleo-Christian basilicas, and Kato Leukos offers a window into the secular and naval life on which that prosperity was based; we do know that around 410 a Karpathian fleet regularly brought grain from Alexandria to Constantinople. At least a few of the structures clearly extend down into the water because of local subsidence, and so a synergasia with the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities would also be informative to complete the picture. Incidentally, the region is right on the edge of seismic activity caught between the Anatolian and African plates which are pushing up the Aegean sea bed as well as an active volcanic arc, and deserves serious geological analysis as well. Finally, the uniquely preserved complex of cisterns on top of Sokastro may well exemplify a naval base where ships of someone’s fleet could be resupplied with water, etc., and so determining who built it and when would have obvious ramifications for our meager knowledge of the naval history of the Aegean in the Middle Byzantine period, when Crusaders from the West were encountering Arabs from the East.