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  Nr. 22 - Dec.'99-Jan.2000
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A Day at the Paros Antiquities

by Christa Nomikos, December 1999
On a beautiful sunny day in mid October, a rather large number of our Paros International Womens’ Group started out on a tour of the Paros Museum and antiquities in Paroikia.

We were lucky and privileged that the Director of the museum, Mr. Yannos Kourayos, had made himself free to show us some of the best pieces the museum exhibits.

One of the first pieces we saw is a very impressive statue of a Gorgon with wings of the 6th c.BC only recently excavated near the museum. In the adjoining rooms there is a display of well-preserved sculpture of the 6th and 5th c.BC; among them a large relief slab with a vivid scene of a panther attacking a bull that was found during restoration work at the Ekatontapiliani church. Another relief slab depicts the famous lyric poet of Paros, Archilochos, at a funeral festivity. Then there are two impressive large vases that had been reused in antiquity for the burial of small children. These vases were produced in the 7th c.BC at Parian workshops. Among many other objects of art we were also able to admire some enchanting statues of Parian kouroi (male figures) as well as the famous statue of Nike in a transparent peplos and sandals.

Mr. Kourayos then showed us finds of the prehistoric settlements of the islet Saliagos that are exhibited in room C. This small islet between Paros and Antiparos was populated already in Late Neolithic times (5300-4500 BC). The objects found are stone tools and blades, clay vases with coloured decoration and a number of figurines. Further on there is a variety of finely-painted pottery from 2300-1600 BC, most of it grave offerings, which have been excavated at the Kastro.

The excavation of the Sanctuary of Apollon in the Delion brought to light amongst many other objects two exquisitely-formed small marble tables (4th c.BC). Next, in the same room, we were shown a most important historical monument of ancient Greece, the so-called Parian Chronicle. It consists, unfortunately, of only one part of a stele of which two more sections are to be found at Oxford University. Inscribed on it are dates of the most important philosophers, the campaign of Xerxes against Greece and other significant events.

Then, moving out to the Portico, our attention was drawn to a number of architectural pieces, some of which are from the Archaic Archilocheion, together with some inscribed slabs referring to the life of the poet Archilochos. A huge cult statue of Artemis from the Delion (5th c. BC) caught our interest next, although it is unfortunately in a rather poor state of preservation. The courtyard of the museum contains some well- preserved sarcophagi in the shape of the human body dating also from the 5th c.BC, as well as other funeral equipment.

Last but not least, we viewed the beautiful mosaic floor (3rd c.AD) showing scenes from the labours of Herakles. This once belonged to a gymnasium building of the 3rd c.AD and was rescued from the Ekatontapiliani church.

A very interesting walking tour followed to some of the nearby excavations. Behind some of the Parian houses an obscure funeral monument or hereon with circular steps and drawings on the surface of the marble was found. On its top there might have been a statue or a stele, but unfortunately many of the statues and other objects had been reused as building material in later periods. The magnificient Gorgon now in the museum was also found here. It is presumed that this cemetery may have been connected with the one discovered near the harbour of Paroikia years ago.

From here we continued to the Open-Air Sanctuary. The construction is similar to the one of Delion. It has very thick walls and in the middle a modern house has been set up, as in many other places in Paroikia. Behind the museum there are ruins of old houses from the 4th and 3rd c.BC. One of them displays a rather well-preserved mosaic floor, under which there is a part of another mosaic floor visible.

At Tholos, centre of the ancient city, recent excavations brought to light a superb pottery and sculpture workshop right underneath a modern house. As Mr. Kourayos told us, it was in use from the 4th c.BC down to the Hellenistic period. We saw two ovens where pottery was burned and old walls which are still in good condition, as well as a geometric grave with female bones.

Then we said good-bye to Mr. Kourayos and those of us who were still not tired of sight-seeing continued with Mr.Vassilis way up to Dio Plakes to admire the part of the ancient stone wall that lay 2m below the surface. We passed another sculpture workshop and came to the remains of a rectangular structure (7x9m) that presumably was a tower built of marble.

It is interesting to note that in ancient times the city of Paros was enclosed by a stone wall eight meters high by two meters wide, providing the island with an excellent defence system against intruders.

At lunchtime we met the remaining group in a cafe in Paroikia and exchanged ideas and impresssions about that beautiful and most interesting morning which we spent thanks to the kindness and expertise of Mr. Kourayos. Our ideas were focused on one important aspect: namely, we realised during this tour that if Mr.Kourayos, who has been doing excellent work in Paros, were provided by the Ministry of Culture with more personnel and economic assistance, it would greatly facilitate his mission and would help develop further the excavation programme of the island. The effect of this is understandably significant not only for the preservation of the rich Greek culture but also for its proper presentation to the great number of tourists visiting this enchanting island every year.
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