“Cruising the Dodecanese” is Peter Sommer Travels’ last scheduled cruise in Greece in 2017. This year, to give an impression of the experience, we are providing a diary of sorts on our blog. Rather than describing every day in detail (you can check our itineraries on www.petersommer.com for that), every day we will pick one image we took that day, accompanied by some explanations and thoughts.
Yesterday, we explored Kos Town, a place of major significance in antiquity, with lots of things to show to our guests. Today was a little different: a very full day in a very different way.
We started anchored off Giali, a small and seemingly insignificant islet between Kos and Nisyros, notable today for its pumice quarry. The whole place is made of pumice. We continued after lunch, entering volcanic Nisyros to visit its sights, finishing with a superb dinner of local specialities, including roasted goat, on the caldera rim.
The obvious highlights of what we did are all on Nisyros: the local museum (it is a superb example of what modern Greek museology can do, underlining all major aspects of Ancient Greek civilisation on the basis of local and rather provincial material), the acropolis fortification of Paliokastro (a superb example of Late Classical or Early Hellenistic defensive architecture, comparable with and probably closely linked to Loryma in Caria) and the volcanic steam crater of Stefanos.
That’s all superb, but we added an extra experience. In the morning, we took our guests to Giali to show them some real hands-on archaeology. Giali is one of only two sources of obsidian in the Aegean. Obsidian is a volcanic glass that occurs within deposits of pumice and it makes wonderful cutting tools if you know how to split it. People have known that for thousands of years, and thus Giali was frequented by humans in the deepest and darkest reigns of prehistory. Giali obsidian is found across the eastern Aegean on sites dating back to the Neolithic and further to the Palaeolithic, tens of thousands of years ago.
This is not the place to discuss the prehistory of Giali in detail, but we were able to take our guests ashore and show them an archaeological site as it looks in the raw, with no excavation, no museum – and next to no touching. What you see, lying on the ground, is fragments of pottery, bits of obsidian, all leftovers from the island’s geological history and from the various occasions of human presence. Giali shows copious evidence of past visits: pottery of many periods, and bits of obsidian scattered around. We always tell our guests that it’s okay to look, but not to take anything with them, because the archaeology is to be preserved in the place it belongs. Our picture shows a memento of a previous group of visitors: bits of surface-found pottery (mainly Classical Greek and Roman) as well as obsidian pebbles, unworked by human hands. Our gulet is visible in the background.
Tomorrow is another day, and we don’t know yet what it might bring, but it will include the island of Tilos.