Project Team Members:
Kato Leukos is a site situated on the west coast of the island of Karapathos which is today a seasonal, seaside resort town but was in antiquity a thriving Late Roman and Early Byzantine port town. Unfortunately, modern development is encroaching on the ancient remains, heightening the need for thorough study of the archaeological material. Until LeSP began its work, this site had never been systematically investigated, although several of its features were the subject of individual studies, often carried out in association with rescue projects.
In 2009 a topographic survey of the ancient remains and modern features as well as an architectural survey of visible ancient remains was undertaken. Architectural elements were recorded with a handheld Trimble GPS unit, with locational data corrected against the Satellite Based Augmentation System beacon signal from the Karapathos airport and rectified Quickbird satellite imagery, and subsequently drawn by hand.
Kato Leukos was a large settlement, and the Byzantine city extends beyond the limits of the survey permit. Overall, an urban plan is not evident and may never have been a consideration for the builders and settlers, although some buildings respond to the area’s topography. The settlement as a whole was composed of small, single-storey buildings with several larger buildings and several structures serving as cisterns, as evidenced from the presence of thick plaster coatings on some walls.
Most architecture is concentrated on the north and southwest peninsulas, mainly built from locally gathered limestone rubble and roughly hewn limestone blocks, sometimes set with a cement-like mortar. Coursing was evident, but usually only one or two courses survive. Wall thickness varies between 60 and 90 cm with an average thickness of 65 cm, likely supporting only single-storeyed buildings.
To the east of the north peninsula, the “Lytos Field,” a broad sandy plot of land, contains numerous remains which lie only a few centimeters below the surface. Most of these walls are only 2-4 m in length with some longer walls preserved at the perimeter of the Lytos Field. A single long wall, rubble built and running more than 15 m in length, may be the northern limit of the seaside portion of the Byzantine town. Other structures are difficult to identify, although some have been tentatively described. Structure D is the remains of a low barrel-vaulted, two-storey building, and Structure C is a two-roomed compound with a semi-circular niche in the largest room. Both buildings are rubble built with roughly hewn limestone blocks set in a cement-like mortar containing pottery and tile sherds.
The bedrock of both peninsulas was worked for architectural purposes: either as buildings for habitation or as cisterns. In one structure, Structure N, a settling basin was carved into the bedrock and lined with hydraulic plaster.
In 2010 the survey moved to the eastern portion of the site, which included a precipitous ridge that naturally creates the eastern boundary of the site. Near the bottom of the ridge the small church of Gialou Chorafitissa was found built inside the apse of a much larger church of Early Byzantine date. Within the church are re-used marble column bases and a single granite column drum.
Nearby on the lower elevations of the Ridge Scarp, a series of tombs were cut into the soft limestone bedrock; these were previously known but were never the subject of study. Fourteen tombs were plotted and drawn; some are intact and could not have their chambers measured. The open tombs, likely looted in antiquity, are filled with modern garbage and soil. All tombs are architecturally similar, consisting of a tomb façade cut flat and vertically into the steeply sloping bedrock. This cutting resulted in a short dromos-like space in front of the tomb, the longest of which measures more than three meters. The chambers are neither of uniform size nor shape, some exhibiting a roughly circular footprint while others are more rectangular. Preliminary ceramic studies suggest a date in the Late Roman period.
In 2010, a surface potsherd survey of approximately 50% of the total site area was completed. The area surveyed in 2009 was organized according to a 10 x 10 m grid. Within every square all visible potsherds were tallied to document distribution densities, locally-produced fabrics and shapes, and imported wares. Dense clusters were concentrated in areas with little or no vegetation primarily on the north and southwest peninsulas.