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Making the Most of Maps: Field Survey on the Island of Kythera - Journal Article in Journal of GIS in Archaeology, Volume 1, April, 2003

By Ian Johnson and Andrew Wilson

Archaeological Computing Laboratory,

University of Sydney NSW 2006,


Journal of GIS in Archaeology, Volume I, April, 2003.





Field Survey.................................84
Churches and Population Records...88
Oral History..................................89

Acknowledgements: We wish to thank the Kytherian Brotherhood of NSW (ie, Australia}, which funded both field seasons through the Nicholas Anthony Aroney Trust, and the Dumbarton Oaks Foundation of Harvard University, which provided additional funding for the 2000 field.


According to local belief, the island of Kythera, off the coast of the Peloponese, was depopulated seven times. One episode with particular significance was the sacking of the Venetian settlement of Agios Demitrios (Paliochora) by the Ottoman "pirate" Barbarossa in 1537 and the subsequent removal of as many as 7,000 people from the island (the current population is 3,000). Whatever the veracity of the belief in repeated depopulation, the island landscape is characterized by shifting abandonment and reuse through time. The sacking of Paliochora probably contributed to the abandonment of a large area of marginal agricultural land in the east coast hinterland, perhaps starting with a shift from cultivation to opportunistic use and grazing, and thence to the pervasive aspalathos (spiny, impenetrable regrowth, which today clothes large parts of the island). The Paliochora region is by no means the only abandoned area, but its history is of particular interest owing to this documented event and historical accounts that can be tested archaeologically.

The Australian Paliochora–Kythera Project (APKAS) is a project of the Sydney University Archaeological Computing Laboratory sponsored in Greece by the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens and carried out in cooperation with members of the Ohio State University Excavations at Isthmia.

APKAS aims to reconstruct the occupation history of the northern part of the island through mapping of the cultural landscape, archaeological field survey, and historical and ethnographic enquiry. The Paliochora area acts as a case study and central focus for the survey. The first preliminary field season took place in 1999 with a team of 15 people, roughly divided into fieldwalking (8), GIS/GPS (2), pottery collection and analysis (2), and historical and ethnographic research (3).

We have just commenced a second preliminary field season with a team of seven, aiming to finish the more specialized aspects of the study and finalize our methodology in preparation for future seasons with a larger team of volunteers.

From the outset, APKAS has adopted GIS and GPS as an organizing framework on which to hang all data collection. Our field lab, in a disused school made available by the local community, is equipped with an Ethernet network of three Pentium laptops, one of which acts as a file and print server as well as a primary GIS machine. The other two are used primarily for data entry, GPS download, and Internet access. A Trimble ProXL GPS receiver with a 2 Mb data logger, run from a car battery to avoid downtime in case of power failure, is used as a base station for differential GPS correction.

Field data from a Trimble ProXR and two Trimble GeoExplorer GPS receivers are downloaded and corrected at the end of each day. They are used to update the GIS, allowing production of updated working maps for the field team on a daily basis, feedback on survey progress, and detailed preliminary results throughout the field season. The GIS/GPS team to field team ratio has been approximately 1:5 in our preliminary seasons, but we would expect 1:10 now that the system has been established.

A team from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, led by Cyprian Broodbank has been carrying out an extensive fieldwalking survey immediately south of our study area since 1998 (Broodbank 1999).

Their project, with a team of approximately 35 people, uses more traditional transect survey based on topographic maps, gridding of the landscape, and concentrating on surface scatters of ceramics rather than landscape features. ArcView is used to plot maps of artifact density across the landscape and within intensively sampled sites. The two projects will provide an opportunity to compare the results of these two contrasting approaches.

To read the remainder of this article in PDF format, please click here.

Thank you very much to Professor Ian Johnson, for permission to reprint "Making the Most of Maps" at kythera-family.net.

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