Excavations for the Zagora Archaeological Project (ZAP), which took place for six weeks in 2012, 2013 and 2014, on the Greek island of Andros, are now over. This was a return to excavations at Zagora after some 40 years. We blogged about it during the excavations, and posts will continue to be published as news arises or to share some of the many photographs which were taken during the season. Check the updates by clicking Zagora dig blog, above.

The place

The settlement of Zagora, on the Aegean island of Andros, about two hours by ferry from mainland Greece.

The time of the settlement

Almost three thousand years ago, from around 900 BCE to 700 BCE.

Why Zagora is special

The people of Zagora left around 700 BCE. We’re not sure why but it may have been that the water supply dried up and could no longer support them. The area was not resettled – which means that the buildings were left as they had been lived in. Zagora is like a snapshot in time.

Many other archaeological sites have been ruined by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or the ravages of war. Or their architecture and artefacts portray a less clear picture due to successive periods of habitation by different peoples, obscuring or confusing the evidence of earlier habitation.

The settlement layout at Zagora – over 6.7 hectares – was not disturbed by subsequent settlement. The building materials weren’t used to modify the buildings or moved to make different structures with them, as is often the case where there have been successive settlements.

Of course not much remains standing after almost 3,000 years; the buildings collapsed where they had stood. But the building layout remains, along with objects and object pieces – mostly pottery, in the rooms where they had been stored and used. This provides clear evidence of how life was lived at Zagora – which is extremely rare among central Aegean Early Iron Age sites.

Much has been discovered even though only 10% of the site has been excavated – revealing 55 stone-built rooms. We wonder what our further exploration will reveal….

The 1960s and 70s digs

It was an Australian team, led by Sydney University Archaeology Professor Alexander Cambitoglou, that in the late 1960s and early 70s conducted (under the auspices of the Archaeological Society at Athens) the first major excavations of the site. This revealed much of the settlement layout, and many of the artefacts discovered are now in the Archaeological Museum of Andros.

Aerial view of the Zagora site, showing wall lines, including excavated 8th century BCE houses and a temple. Photo by Hugh Thomas. © The Australian...

Aerial view of the Zagora site, showing wall lines, including excavated 8th century BCE houses and a temple. Photo by Hugh Thomas. © The Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens / University of Sydney.

The current digs

Now, 40 years later, we have returned, thanks to an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant, to continue the exploration. The grant was awarded to the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sydney and the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens. The Powerhouse Museum, the Archaeological Society at Athens and the Institute for Mediterranean Research (Crete) are major participants in this important project.

The 2012 fieldwork took place for six weeks from mid October to late November, and in 2013 and 2014 for six weeks from late September to early November.

The Zagora Archaeological Project utilises 21st century methods to add breadth and depth to our knowledge of this unique town. These are described in this website – see particularly the Zagora dig blog and For teachers sections.

Website overview

Thanks to the internet, we have been able to share with an immediacy not possible before, our work as we explore this unique archaeological site.

We are hoping for answers to many questions. Might the migration of people from Zagora have contributed to, or been caused by, the process that led to the development of the Greek city-states and culminated in the flourishing of Athens around the 5th century BCE?

This period, known as the Golden Age, is revered for the development of the city-state (polis) and democracy, the burgeoning of philosophy and the sciences, and the flourishing of theatre – all of which have had a huge influence on western civilisation.

We believe we can better understand ourselves now if we understand our past. And with that better understanding, we may make wiser, more sustainable decisions about our future. We hope to share our joys of discovering our human past and we are especially keen to engage high school students in this journey.

This Zagora project provides a rare opportunity through the web to engage the general public and students in a real archaeological project.

This website has been designed, and continues to be developed with a broad audience in mind (with parts particularly tailored for secondary school students and teachers) whom we hope to inform, educate and inspire about the story of our human past through archaeology.

Our invitation to you

We invite you to comment on our blog. Let us know what engages you and what content you would like to see on this website. We look forward to our conversations with you.