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view from the island of Giali in the Dodecanese islands of Greece towards a gulet at seaDuring our trips in the Dodecanese we often anchor 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.

At times we go ashore 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.

A view from Nisyros towards Giali and Kos in the Dodecanese islands of Greece

A view from Nisyros towards Giali and Kos.

The whole of Giali is a veritable archaeological site, as it looks in the raw, with no excavation, no museum - and next to no alteration bar the modern industrial works. What you see, lying on the ground, are 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.

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