This year, the excavation work at Despotiko, Mantra site, lasted for six weeks, from 22 May to 1 July 2022. An extensive installation, and one of the most important cult centres in the central Aegean, has come to light at this site, which has been excavated since 1997. The earliest evidence of activity dates back to the Early Iron Age, while the period of peak activity is documented around the mid-6th century BC, with the establishment of the 1600m2 shrine (‘temenos’) of Apollo, surrounded by a wall (‘peribolos’). The excavation has so far revealed 88 fragments of marble ‘kouroi’ (free-standing sculptures) and 40 marble pedestals for statues of different types, which are the most impressive offerings in the sanctuary, constituting the largest known set in the Cyclades. Outside the temenos, there is a large complex of structures and building complexes of various uses (residences, restaurants, warehouses, animal keeping areas, etc.). The discovery, in 2020, of an extensive and complex water collection and management system consisting of cisterns and a built pipeline, which extended to the foothills of the hill south of the sanctuary, is indicative of the size of this facility.
Excavation: This year’s excavation work focused on the cistern system, as well as the area south of the temenos, the Eastern Complex and Building U.
In particular, the excavation of the central cistern (Cistern 1) and the southernmost circular cistern (Cistern 3) continued.
The surviving architectural remains point to at least two architectural eras of the central cistern in ancient times.
The exploration of the inner part of the circular Cistern 3, discovered in 2021, continued.
In the Eastern Complex, the exploration continued in the south-western part of the complex, where part of a large, paved area had already been revealed. A rectangular room to the south of the paved area was explored and it became clear that the areas of the Complex extend further to the south and to the east.
Considerable emphasis was placed on the excavation of the area to the south of the temple-shaped Building U.
The succession of the usage eras of the site and the relevant discoveries have been particularly interesting.
The excavation was carried out under the direction of G. Kouragios (Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades) in collaboration with archaeologists Ilia Daifa and Alexandra Alexandridou (Assistant Professor, University of Ioannina), with the participation of Christina Konstantakopoulou (National Hellenic Research Foundation, Birkbeck College), Caspar Meyer (Bard Graduate Center), Erica Angliker (ICS London) and Luigi Lafasciano, postgraduate students and graduates of the University of Ioannina (Louisa Panopoulou, Ignatios Assatof, Mata Samioti, Anastasia Mallikopoulou, Despina Kapetanidou, Christina Giamouzi) and the Bard Graduate Center (New York), as well as undergraduate students from the College Year in Athens, Birkbeck College (London) and the University of Sao Paolo (Brazil).
Restoration: Once the restoration of the archaic temple and restaurant of the temenos was completed, and with a view to protecting and restoring the archaic temenos of the sanctuary in general, a restoration study was carried out in respect of Building D, the third best preserved structure in the sanctuary, after the temple and the restaurant, which dominates the northern-eastern corner of the temenos and was inextricably linked to the cult practices. It dates from the third quarter of the 6th century BC and has a two-part plan of 9.40m x 12.50m. The facade of the building is represented by four columns in antis; furthermore, based on the design of architect G. Orestidis, which has been approved by the Central Archaeological Council (‘KAS’), the leveling course and the stylobate of the building’s main facade are filled with ancient and new material so that the bases and the lower sections of the columns of the portico are placed in their original position. In addition to the colonnade, the restoration of the eastern and western pilasters is planned at a small height and the completion of 3 to 6 rows (‘domoi’) of marble blocks on the inner (entrance) wall of the portico and the installation of the threshold of the entrance to the cella and two entrance pilasters around the perimeter of the building. The restoration work lasted 3 weeks and was carried out by expert marble workers V. Chatzis, M. Armaos, G. Skaris, G. Palamaris, L. Ioannou, G. Kontonikolaou. During this period the underpinning of the stylobate was completed, and the bases of the columns were put in place; the threshold of the cella was installed and the arrangement of the southern facade of the building, the northern and the southern pilasters has begun.
Both the excavation and the restoration work would not have been possible without the support of: AEGEAS Non-Profit Civil Company (Athanasios & Marina Martinou), the Paul & Alexandra Canellopoulos Foundation, the A.G. Leventis Foundation, C.Y.A., the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, Marion Stassinopoulos, ‘Friends of Paros’ Association and many other private supporters of the excavation.