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Kimolos: The beautiful island with hidden treasures

KIMOLOS IS A CYCLADEIAN PARADISE. The quiet Aegean island stands out not only for its pristine beaches, gastronomy, picturesque fishing villages, wild landscapes and rocky hills but also for its priceless hidden treasures.

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One of the most interesting ways to get to know a place is to walk it, and Kimolos lends itself to this, as it is crossed by an ancient network of paths. Walking, you admire the natural beauty, the endless view of the Aegean, the geological surprises, the primeval landscape of the Cyclades, as well as its great cultural and historical elements.

Many paths are cobbled or move between dry stones, while there are also sections of paths carved into the rocky terrain. Old paths, made by people who struggled to reach every corner of the island, exploiting every inch of land.

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Walking, you can easily see the remains of rural life and mining activity. It is touching that even today you meet people cultivating their fields and moving around with horses or donkeys. Of course, at the end of each route you are rewarded with an unforgettable dip in the crystal clear waters of deserted beaches.

It is barely mentioned in the ancient sources and its name is mainly associated with the famous chalk earth, the mineral white clay used since ancient times and then for centuries in medicinal and cosmetic preparations for cleaning the body and clothes.

The beautiful microcosm of the island of the barren line offers an enchanting journey through time. In the village of Kimolos, across from the Metropolitan Church of Panagia Odegetria, is its archaeological museum. It is housed in a traditional, two-story building, one of the oldest in the Village, and in its halls you can explore and learn the precious history of this island.

Going up to the first floor, you see the ancient history of Kimolos, which starts from the late Neolithic era and includes exhibits, texts and a film projection, while the representation of an ancient burial, as found during its excavation, which is placed under transparent floor.

It is typical that the permanent exhibition includes finds mainly from the excavations in the cemetery of the ancient city of Kimolos in the Greek position, but also from traditions and collections from various places on the island, covering a wide chronological range from the prehistoric era to late antiquity.

In its current geographical position and in the course of sea routes, Kimolos, together with Milos, the uninhabited Polyaigos and Antimilos and numerous smaller islets around and between them, belongs to the volcanic island cluster that delimits the southwestern entrance to the Aegean. It is small in area, arid, with rocky steep coasts in the north and few lowlands mainly in the south.

A narrow strait separates it from the much larger Milos and although we could say that it is in its “shadow”, it has always been autonomous and independent. It retains its ancient name, which it owes to its inhabitant, Kimolos, as the legend says. Pliny also mentions her as Echinusa. In the 16th century, Western cartographers called it “Argentiera, i.e. silver, from its silver coasts or from the rumor that there were silver mines on the island,” I read in the museum’s information note.

It is barely mentioned in the ancient sources and its name is mainly associated with the famous chalk earth, the mineral white clay used since ancient times and then for centuries in medicinal and cosmetic preparations for cleaning the body and clothes.

About the chalky earth the French naturalist GS Sonnini writes in 1778, among other things: “Most of the Greeks of the archipelago use no other material to wash clothes and have noticed that they become whiter when they use sea water to dissolve this earth, which its current name is “clay tsi Nias”, from the name of the location where it is taken. They load it on ships that transport it to other islands and to various places in the East. They take this land that has been watered by the sea water and they form it into small oblong masses that are left to dry.”

“For the ancient past of Kimolos, our knowledge is currently scarce, based mainly on the evidence traced through the material remains of human activity, which have been identified from time to time by the limited archaeological researches to date. Surface finds from prehistoric times attest to the human presence on the island during the newer Neolithic era (end of the 6th – end of the 4th millennium BC) and the early Bronze Age at the sites Stenda, Kedros, Provalma, the latter with a number of prehistoric tools made of apple obsidian and mainly flint but also cores and waste from their processing. The strong presence of flint artefacts is due to the existence of the rock in Kimolos itself and in the opposite Polyaigos, from where it is possible that the other islands supplied it. A viola-shaped marble figurine of the Proto-Cycladic I Period also comes from Kimolos, the exact location of which is unknown, which is exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens,” archaeologist Peggy Pantou tells LiFO.

During the Late Bronze Age, finds probably from damaged chamber tombs indicate the existence of a Mycenaean settlement in Hellenic during the 12th c. e.g. and at the beginning of the 11th c. e.g. At the beginning of historical times, it seems that Dorians from Laconia arrived and settled in Kimolos.

“Indications of human settlement and activity on the island, from these years until late antiquity, can be found in various places. In Paliokastro, the highest mountain of the island, ruins of an ancient wall, parts of walls, wells, reservoirs and grooves carved into the rock can be seen under the dense vegetation. In Siderokapsia , the remains of mining operations and the very name of the place indicate an ancient establishment of iron mines. In Stenda , Kalamitsi and Amoni surface finds testify to activity since at least the 8th c. e.g. Sta Greek, the existence of a cemetery of the 8th c. e.g. undoubtedly documents the existence of a contemporary settlement in the area. As no building remains have been identified, it is not known whether the area was inhabited continuously, i.e. whether the settlement of the Geometric period was founded on the site of some prehistoric settlement – probably the main settlement of the island – which perhaps formed the nucleus around which the later city of Kimolos” points out Mrs. Pantou.

And he adds: “The intense geological changes that are reflected in the area of ‚Äč‚ÄčEllinkine show that the ancient image of the place is not identical with the present one and it is possible that the destruction and abandonment of the site is due to some of them. Building remains of the unexplored ancient city are today visible on the bottom of the sea and on the islet of Agios Andreas or Daskaleio, which is about 400 m from the coast, but was once joined to it. Along the coast there are parts of the ancient cemetery with pit and chamber tombs carved into the soft volcanic soil, the long-term erosion of which, combined with the mining activity in the area in recent years, resulted in their destruction to a large extent.”

Indicative are the texts of foreign travelers of the 18th and 19th centuries who arrive in Kimolos and visit the Hellenes.

a sphinx and a rooster, as well as a small Etruscan-style vase with a handle. […] we decided to confine ourselves that day to our first tests, and to return the next day with some twenty workmen, to dig up the whole hill, and try to discover some catacomb, where no one had entered before us”, GA Olivier, 1794.

“The ancient site of the city of Kimolos has been investigated in the past by antiquarians […] On land there are foundations of houses, tombs and caves extending for a long distance along the coast, which do not yet seem to have been exhausted as a place of search of treasures, for, as we marched, we found almost buried in the sand a well-made goblet with a glossy varnish, which made our hearts flutter and made us go on our way rejoicing” , J.Th. Bent, 1882.

However, one of the main attractions of the island is indeed the Elliniki area, which is right next to one of the best beaches of Kimolos, Mavrospilia . It is characteristic that many, wearing a mask, do not hesitate to thoroughly explore the ruins at the bottom of the sea. Tombs, houses, wells and walls testify to a civilization that flourished before a great earthquake dating back to the Mycenaean period or possibly even earlier.

The limited excavations that have been carried out from time to time in the necropolis of Ellinike have revealed very few undisturbed graves. The findings, however, despite their small number and fragmentary nature, testify to the continuous use of the site until the early Byzantine years. The offerings that accompany the dead include mainly clay vessels, while there is no shortage of figurines, lamps and metal objects that act as a mirror of the life of the inhabitants of the ancient city, showing us that the Kimolii who lived here were not an isolated society but had contacts and relations both with the rest of the Cyclades and with the large commercial centers of their time.

A resolution of the 3rd c. e.g. in honor of a judge from Karystos, who gave solutions to the citizens’ disputes, is to this day the only source of knowledge about the city’s government, which had a democratic character, with the dominant bodies being the Parliament and the Municipality. From the same resolution we also learn about the existence of a sanctuary of the goddess Athena in the city.

Also, it is not known when life ceased in the ancient city and if the habitation was moved to some other, safer location. The island followed the fate of most of the Cyclades and perhaps, as some suppose, was completely deserted for a time.

It is possible that, at the end of the 16th century, a fortified complex of houses, the Castle, was founded in the SE of the island, on the opposite side from the ancient city, a short distance from the safe bay of Psathi . Tradition says that twelve Sifnian families settled here and chose the location to see their homeland. The modern settlement gradually developed around this Castle.

At the same time, the northern part of the island is also of particular historical interest. There, on the wonderful paths of Kimolos, one notices dozens of caves, natural or carved, on the top and on the slopes of the mountain and others half-submerged in the surrounding sea area. In fact, the trademark of Kimolos is Skiadi, a huge stone mushroom made up of 70 types of rocks. This rare natural monument, which has been included in the Atlas of Geological Monuments of the Aegean, is located to the west of the Sclavos hill, in the northwestern part of Kimolos.

Kimolos, charming, unspoiled and quiet, with few permanent residents, remains one of the islands of the barren Aegean line that continues to travel through time, keeping many secrets. {https://www.lifo.gr}

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