ARCX 321

Excavating in the Aegean: The Case of Despotiko (Paros, Antiparos)

Major Discipline(s):
Archaeology, Art
Summer Session I (May 28 - June 23, 2018)

This summer course offers students the unique opportunity to actively participate in the excavation of one of the most prominent sanctuaries of the Aegean, situated on the uninhabited islet of Despotiko, west of Antiparos, in the center of the Cyclades. Systematically excavated since 2001, this sanctuary -dedicated to Apollo-, proved to be almost as rich as the well-known sanctuary on the sacred island of Delos in its architectural development and its dedications.

While unveiling the history and the different phases of ritual activity at this important Cycladic sanctuary, the participants will be introduced to archaeological fieldwork methods and theory. In particular, the excavation will focus on the exploration of a number of edifices not only within the sacred precinct, but also outside of it. An oval or apsidal building of the 8th century B.C., which represents the earliest construction of the site up to date, presents special interest. The interpretation of its character and function is crucial for reconstructing the earliest ritual practices at the site.The sanctuary attracted numerous votive dedications of various types. This gives students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with a variety of artifacts of different materials and types covering a wide chronological range extending from the Early Iron Age (9th-8th c. BC) to the Classical period.

See Vimeo video for information on Despotiko: Despotiko Video
Go to article on the archaeological excavation on Despotiko: Dig sheds light on island sanctuary
For the latest update on Despotiko go to: Archaeologists wrap-up phase one


During the first three weeks of the course, students will reside in the village of Agios Georgios on Antiparos, from where they will be transported daily by a boat at the excavation site on Despotiko. During these weeks, they will study and experience the entire excavation procedure. They will be taught the basic methods of stratigraphical excavation, onsite documentation, recording and processing of the finds. The work at the site will be combined with a number of afternoon lectures and activities at the village, including the detailed documentation of daily activities at the site, the preparation of architectural plans and, more importantly, keeping the excavation diary.

Afternoon lectures will cover the theoretical issues concerning archaeological theory and methods; the various types of archaeological evidence with a focus on the material from Despotiko; ancient religious practices and rituals; the birth and development of Greek sanctuaries and, in particular, those in the Cyclades. The aim of these lectures is to enable students to fully comprehend the purpose of systematic excavation and to place the sanctuary and its material culture into its theoretical context.

The last week of the course will be spent on the island of Paros, where students will work in the storage rooms of the Archaeological Museum of Paros with material from the site. There, they will be trained at the detailed processing of the finds, mostly of pottery, figurines and other minor objects. They will therefore become acquainted with the process, which enables the detailed study, interpretation and publication of the excavated material. They will be taught archaeological drawing and photography, necessary tools for the study of the objects.

The work at the museum will be supplemented with afternoon classes, focusing on pottery and various clay finds. Students will be provided with necessary information on the main Greek pottery production centers, the clay, the shapes, uses and dissemination of Greek ceramics. The discussions will be adapted to the nature of the finds processed at the museum.


This course requires a minimum enrollment of 15, with a maximum enrollment of 20.

Currently registered undergraduates majoring in relevant subjects will receive priority, as will applicants with a B+ average or above. The nature of the course is primarily introductory, but students with a stronger background in archaeology will have the opportunity to do more advanced work.

CYA reserves the right to cancel any course that fails to achieve minimum enrollment by April 1. Students are advised not to purchase non-refundable airline tickets before early April.


60 contact hours

Fee Discounts

  • Students who submit their application for admission with full payment postmarked on or before March 1 receive a reduction of $100.
  • Students who enroll and participate in more than one CYA summer course receive a reduction of $100 per course.

Essential Information

The course starts on the island of Antiparos on May 28 and ends on the island of Paros on June 23. Students should arrange to arrive in Athens at least one day before the course commences to allow time to travel to the island of Antiparos. 

Enrolled students will have access to detailed information prior to departure that will include directions to the islands of Paros and Antiparos, and other practical information. For a general introduction to the island of Paros, including ferry and airline connections from Athens, CYA suggests the following websites:,, and For panoramic views of the island you may visit

Housing & Meals

For the first three weeks students will be accommodated at Zombos Rooms To Let, in the village of Agios Georgios, on Antiparos.  The last week of the program they will be accommodated in the Aegean Village Studios in Paroikia, the port city of Paros.  Lunch will be offered Monday through Friday at Agios Georgios and at Paroikia.  A welcome and a farewell dinner are also included in the course fee.

Daily Schedule

During the excavation period of the course students will be on site from 7:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  Class meetings will take place in the late afternoon or early evening.  A similar schedule will be followed during the last week of cataloguing activities in Paroikia.


Monday May 28 - Meet your instructor at the port of Antiparos. Transfer to Zombos Rooms To Let, at the village of Agios Georgios, where you will spend 20 nights.

6:00 pm - Welcome and orientation session, offering students the opportunity to get acquainted with their instructor and fellow students followed by a welcome dinner.

First day

Tuesday May 29

Daily boat transport to the excavation site on Despotiko is included in the course fee.
Students will be provided with basic excavation tools upon arrival at the excavation site; in addition they are advised to bring with them the following:

  • Hat with wide brim
  • Sun Block
  • T-shirts covering the shoulders
  • Sturdy shoes or closed shoes (NO sandals on the excavation)
  • Long trousers - to avoid injuries & scratches from plants
  • Garden Gloves, if you wish to bring your own (you will be given a pair at the excavation)
Transfer to Paros: Sunday June 24
Students and professor will transfer by charter bus from Agios Georgios to the port of Antiparos, and by boat from Antiparos to Paroikia (Paros).
2:00 pm Check in  at Aegean Village Studios

Last Day

Friday June 22 Last class. Final examination in late afternoon
Farewell dinner


Saturday June 23 - Hotel rooms are available until 12:00 noon.