Be a member
Send article with e-mail
Your e-mail *
Friend e-mail *
CAPTCHA *
CAPTCHA Code *
Refresh CAPTCHA
Comment
* required fields
Send
More
- +
by Archaeology Newsroom

Koufonisi Island, the Delos of the Libyan sea

Koufonisi Island, covered today with sand and bushes, lies close to the southeast shore of Crete. From the Middle Ages until today there is no mention that the island was ever inhabited permanently. However, scattered ancient remains brought the island to the attention of the English admiral and traveler T.B. Spratt in the mid 19th century. His itinerary and visit was repeated by the English archaeologists Bosanquet and Curley in 1903 and by the American A. Leonard Jr. in 1970. The definite conclusion all the above travelers reached was that Koufonisi was identical to the island Lefki of antiquity for which the people of Itanos and Hierapytna were contending, as it is referred in the famous “Inscription of Magnetes” of 112-111 B.C. Excavations and archaeological research have since 1976 taken the responsibility to answer to the questions obviously leading to the above conclusion and the result is undoubtedly impressive: An entire theatre that could have housed a thousand spectators, a temple still containing fragments from the colossal cult statue; two private houses with 17 rooms decorated with mosaics and colourful walls, a system supplying water to the city through a series of vaulted cisterns and built pipes, a Minoan acropolis, cemeteries, and last but not least, the city of Lefki itself. Thus, slowly but steadily is unveiled the short but impressive presence of this small island near eastern Crete. Judging from the finds so far one can say that Lefki, being one of the major Centres of processing and trading in purple, a symbol of authority and economic power, soon became the object of rivalry among its neighbors. A series of diplomatic intrigues and fights had occurred over the dominance of this prolific island. Later, when its sources of prosperity were depleted, the people of Lefki were exterminated through arms and fire. An invasion in the 4th century A.D. burnt the historic island to the ground. On the basis of the existing ruins, the importance it had for its neighbors and the fact that it was never again inhabited after its destruction, we may describe Koufonisi quoting a western journalist as “the Delos of the Libyan Sea”.