Located in the north section of the harbour of Aghios Nicolaos,
the prehistoric settlement of Agia Eirene on Kea
was one of the most important cultural centres of the Aegean. The site was first occupied by the end of the Neolithic period (3000 BC)
and continued to be inhabited until the mid-15th century BC, when it was destroyed by a series of earthquakes, in the period of its heyday.
Restricted occupation of the site is attested during the Classical and Roman periods.
The substantial architectural remains, revealed so far by the excavations, fill in the picture of an extensive and thriving,
throughout the Bronze Age, settlement. The main period of the Cycladic civilisation, namely the
Early (2500-2000 BC) and
Middle Cycladic phases (2000-1600 BC),
are represented by multi-roomed buildings with well-built wall masonry
and a fortification system along with a sanctuary respectively.
The abudance and quality of the pottery also indicate intensive commercial activity and established exchange networks with the Aegean and especially the Minoan Crete.
During the following Mycenaean times (1600-1450 BC), the setllement of Agia Eirene is characterised by economic growth and social complexity,
comparable to the Mycenaean centres of the mainland, but indicating a strong Minoan influence as well.
The systematic excavation of the site by the American School of Classical Studies began in 1960 under the direction of Prof.
J. L. Caskey of the University of Cincinnati and continued until 1980. The excavation has not been completed in the north part of the
The most important monuments of the site are:
- The sanctuary.
The building measuring 23 x 6 m., lies on the east part of the Agia Eirene promontory. It was continuously used from ca. 2000 BC to the Hellenistic period,
in the historical times as a sanctuary of Dionysos. A significant and rare finding from the Bronze Age stratum of the sanctuary is a group of fifty female statues
of the Minoan style, found under the destruction layer of 1450 BC.
- The fortification wall.
A section of the defensive wall dated to 2000-1500 BC is preserved on the west side of the settlement. The surviving part includes a gate and a rectangular
tower. In around 1600-1450 BC the enceinte was extended and reinforced with towers, surrounding the whole area of the promontory.
- The drainage system.
Remains of the drainage network of the prehistoric settlement, dated
to the 16th-15th centuries BC.
- The "House of the Archon.
Residential building constructed in the typical Mycenaean megaron layout. It lies in the vicinity of the sanctuary and dates from the 16th-15th centuries BC.