History

Pre-history

Kythnos can lay claim to one of the oldest known habitations in the Cycladic islands, a Mesolithic settlement (10000 BCE – 8000 BCE) at Maroulas on the northeast coast. The site, close to the village of Loutra, is situated on the shore, and large portions have eroded into the sea. Excavations in 1996 found intact human skeletons, along with stone artifacts and part of a floor pavement, which indicates a long-term settlement, probably of hunter-gatherers.

Pre-Antiquity

Third millennium BCE (First Cycladic Period) findings at Skouries near the highest peak of the island, Mt. Profitis Elias, suggest that Kythnos was a supplier of raw materials for metallurgy to other islands during the Bronze Age. Remains of copper smelting sites and open-air copper mines were investigated in 1984-1985. (A recent paper by Myrto Georgakopoulo points to the seminal work here by Gale and others.)

The earliest inhabitants of the island known to historians were the Kares (Carians), a pre-Hellenic tribe probably allied to or under the dominion of the Minoans, who eventually were forced by pressure of invading tribes to move on and settle in Asia Minor. Herodotus (Bk. viii, 73) records that in the 13th century BCE, another pre-Hellenic tribe, the Dryopes, originally from the Greek mainland near Mount Parnassus, migrated to the islands, first to Euboea and later spreading to Kea, Kythnos, and beyond. This tribe most probably gave rise to the name of one of the two main villages, Dryopis or Dryopida. Some sources say the island took its name from King Kythnos of the Dryopes; others suggest this is a mythical rather than a historical figure. (Speculations on the origin of the name are contained in Vallinda, 1896.) The Dryopes eventually moved on as well under pressure from Ionians, who migrated out of mainland Greece as Dorian tribes moved in from the north.

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