Prehistoric Treasures Found at Gourimadi, Southern Evia

Ongoing excavations at the Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age site on the island of Evia have unearthed evidence for far-flung trade in the Aegean.

In a recent report from the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports, archaeologists have found evidence of long-distance seaborne trade at the prehistoric site of Gourimadi, near Katsaronio on the island of Evia.

Positioned on the summit and slopes of a natural rock outcrop near the southern tip of the island, the site boasts panoramic views of the surrounding area, including eastern Attica and the northern Cycladic islands of Andros, Tinos, Giaros and Kea. The prehistoric inhabitants of Gourimadi, which means “large rock” in the local Arvanitika dialect, would have been able to see boats approaching from the Cyclades and crossing the maritime straits from the nearby mainland.

Occupation of the site coincides with an important period of change in Aegean prehistory – the shift from rural village life based on hunting, fishing and farming in the Neolithic (“New Stone Age”), to the early development of metallurgy, a more urbanized economy and an expanding web of trade networks in the Bronze Age.

During this period, finely-made bronze axe-heads, too slight for practical use, may have been used as a form of currency for the exchange of goods. Settlement dynamics changed, too, including the construction of fortifications and the beginnings of monumental architecture.

GOURIMADI ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROJECT (GAP) The current excavations at Gourimadi, carried out by members of the Norwegian Archaeological Institute of Athens in close collaboration with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Evia, follow on from an earlier project that explored the long-term settlement history of Karystia. Based on the surface finds located in that survey, including large quantities of obsidian arrowheads, metal slag (evidence of metal production) and a well-preserved bronze axe, Gourimadi was singled out for further study.

Among the finds were stone querns, used for hand-grinding einkorn, emmer wheat and barley.

Located near Katsaronio village, 6 km from the modern coastal town of Karystos, the project at Gourimadi aims to understand the size of the settlement and its various habitation levels, as well as the nature and extent of its trading contacts with the wider Aegean world. This season’s excavations, which lasted from late May to mid-June, revealed architectural remains and a large number of artifacts dating back to the Final Neolithic (c. 4500-3200 BC) and Early Bronze Age I (c. 3200-2650 BC), making it the oldest known site in the Karystia region of the island.

Among the finds were stone querns, used for hand-grinding einkorn, emmer wheat and barley – typical of an early agricultural site – and significant numbers of obsidian blades and arrowheads.

Obsidian, a naturally-occurring volcanic glass used to make sharp cutting tools, could have only come from the Cycladic island of Melos – the only source in the Aegean. As such, the archaeologists believe Gourimadi was an active participant in the seaborne trading networks that connected parts of the Greek mainland and Aegean islands at this time.

Three shallow circular holes were also unearthed, neatly arranged in a row. The holes likely functioned as stake holes, perhaps to support a roof-bearing structure, but their further investigation awaits next season, in 2022.

Also found were fragments of Late Neolithic pottery, many with signs of painted decoration. Numerous small sites appeared on Euboea at the beginning of the Bronze Age, often built on top of earlier settlements or located nearby, and the large quantities of obsidian found at many of the coastal sites suggest increasing contacts with the Cyclades – boosted by the “international spirit” of trade and seafaring.

The Gourimadi Archaeological Project (GAP) is a 5-year research program (2018-2022), directed by Dr Zarko Tankosic and co-directed by Drs Fanis Mavridis and Paschalis Zafeiriadis.