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Huge Haul of Ancient Trinkets on Kythnos


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I ran across this article today about an ancient temple that was recently excavated on Kythnos in the Cyclades.

CNN also had a similar article.

The island of Kythnos is fascinating as it's believed to be the oldest inhabited island in the Cyclades. Current digs date it to at least 9500-8500 BCE. Later, a Greek tribe named the Dryopes (who gave their name to a settlement still populated on the island) moved there from the mainland. Supposedly the island took its name from their king.

Of interesting numismatic news, the excavations uncovered a previously unknown silver coin of Kythnos. While silver coins are known from the classical period, none until now were known from the Hellenistic. The article states it has an image of Apollo on the obverse and a lyre on the reverse. It seems likely that it therefore resembles this bronze from Delos (also in the Cyclades).


Cyclades, Delos
ca. 280 - 166 BCE
AE 9mm 0.56g
Laureate head of Apollo right /
Δ-Η, lyre.
cf. SNG Cop. 668


I was intrigued by this article because I recently obtained a Hellenistic coin that's often attributed to Kythnos.


Cyclades, Kythnos
Keia Koinon Circa 4th-3rd Century BCE
16mm 4.81g
Obverse: Laureate head of Aristaios right
Reverse: Forepart of dog Sirius left, within rays of star
SNG Copenhagen 623-4


I say "often attributed" because, as I understand, it technically comes from the nearby island of Kea. Kythnos itself minted coins in classical and late Hellenistic times, but not in the 4th-3rd centuries BCE as far as I know. The story from the coin is that in the super-ancient days there were a lot of nymphs who inhabited the springs of the island. One day, the gods were strolling on the island, admiring its beauty, when they became jealous of the nymphs who lived there. So, they sent a big lion to scare them all away.

The inhabitants, in order to convince the lion not to eat them, carved a lion in stone to appease it. I'm not sure how that would accomplish anything, but perhaps this was a very vain lion who liked to look at himself all day instead of devouring villagers. I also wonder if a lion did happen to arrive on the island during those times, as lions as a species were known in Greece back then and such animals have been known to swim some distance in the search for territory.

Anyways, without the nymphs tending to the springs the island became very dry. So, the islanders appealed to Aristaois, depicted on the obverse. I'm not exactly sure what he accomplished other than to bring the matter to Zeus, who turned out to be a nice guy and arranged for it to rain. However, not only were they to build a temple to him, but they also had to watch out at the beginning of each summer to the dog star Sirius. If the star appeared clear in the sky, then they would have a breezy summer. Otherwise, it was time to install AC. The dog star Sirius is depicted on the reverse.


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