To the north of Antiparos, just a little outside the harbour, lies Saliagos, an islet of inestimable historical value and natural beauty. Well known to history-lovers the world over owing to the archaeological findings made there, this islet was home to the oldest known settlement in the Cyclades, some 5,300 years ago approximately.
According to archaeologists, humankind started settling in the Cycladic islands at the beginning of the Late Neolithic Period, on the islet of Saliagos, which lies 500 metres from the village of Antiparos, and has a length of 100 metres (from north to south) and a width of 50 metres (east to west). During the Neolithic Period the level of the sea was at least six metres lower than that at which it is today, and Saliagos was then a low peninsula on the isthmus that linked Paros to Antiparos.
The settlement of Saliagos, traces of which were first located in 1961 by Nikolaos Zafeiropoulos, superintendent of antiquities, and brought to light by British archaeologists John Evans and Colin Renfrew in 1964, covers the entire islet and dates to at least the end of the 5th millennium BC approximately. It was composed of rectangular dwellings with stone foundations, which were surrounded by a wall. The task of constructing a defensive wall demands a coordinated collective effort, a fact that proves that in the Cyclades they had already begun the process that would lead later—during the Early Bronze Age—to the foundation of cities.
The inhabitants of the settlement constructed their tools and arrowheads from obsidian. It seems, in fact, that the processing of obsidian took place to a much greater extent than that which local needs could account for; this indicates that the settlement of Saliagos constituted a centre for the processing of and trade in obsidian from Milos.
Its inhabitants were also involved in fishing, livestock-raising, the cultivation of cereals, pottery-making and basket-weaving. Spoons made out of mussels, several hoes and tools made out of bones, vases and figurines have also been found on the islet. Most of the vases unearthed on Saliagos resemble fruit bowls. They are made of dark clay and have a white linear decoration, are open, with an outline that is straight, curved or angled, and have a flat base or, more often, a tall support.
Among the figurines found at Saliagos is ‘The Fat Lady of Saliagos,’ the most ancient marble figurine found to date in the Cyclades. One may admire samples of these artefacts at the Museum of Paros. These creations indicate that, even though the Neolithic civilization of the Cyclades presents similarities with its contemporaries—especially that of the Peloponnese—, it shows a distinct character in its art.
Unfortunately, few other sites of the so-called ‘Saliagos Civilization’ have survived. Very few facts are known about both the society and the religious convictions of these people, as well as about their origin.
What is certain, however, is that the ‘Saliagos Civilization’ existed and flourished many centuries ago, bequeathing to us a unique archaeological space, which forms part of our national treasure.
Antiparos, The Community of Antiparos (undated publication)