1. Geographical location - Environment

Gyali is located between Nisyros and Kos, and belongs to Nisyros’s volcanic group, along with smaller islands Agios Antonios and Strongyli. It consists of two hilly parts to the northeast and the southwest, which are connected in the center by a flat piece of land. Gyali is rich in volcanic rocks –mostly pumice and perlite (natural glass)–, which led to leasing the island to two major companies (LAVA, AEGEAN PERLITES INC.) during the last 15 years. The mines eat away the island’s side facing Nisyros, forming two large craters. Although contracts with the Greek state include restoring the environment after exploitation, the environmental damage is important. Small boats (kaikia) carrying quarry workers connect the island with Nisyros.

2. History

Surface archaeological research has discovered Prehistoric, Hellenistic and Roman sites at several locations. The obsidian quarry at the northeastern part of the island is a significant site. Habitation on Gyali dates from Neolithic Times (Late Neolithic Period, 4500-3200 BC) as indicated by the settlement and the cemetery at its southwestern part. Excavations have uncovered some walls and an arched building at the top of the hill. The cemetery comprises of rectangular tombs carved in the natural rock. Neolithic pottery, as well as obsidian spallings, has been collected at several locations all over the island. On Gyali, there seems to have been a flourishing Neolithic community, probably settling there seasonally. It seems that the community was not connected to the process and trade of local obsidian, since it sustained itself on other forms of economy (stock farming, agriculture, fishing). Besides, local obsidian, due to its incongruity, was inappropriate, compared to the high quality obsidian of Milos.

Habitation on Gyali went on during Historical times. It is probably identified with Pliny’s Kisirous located opposite the cape of Cnidos. Remains of Hellenistic fortifications, as well as a cistern, have been unearthed at Kastro, at the northern part of the southwestern side of the island. Many sherds of Hellenistic pottery at the northeastern part, as well as a retaining wall, evince habitation on Gyali, whereas a tomb in the same area dates from Early Christian Times.

There is no information on Gyali during the Middle Ages. Frequent incursions by pirates in the Aegean at that time probably led to the desertion of the island. Stone country houses, cisterns and a lime kiln date from Modern times, when seasonal or permanent residents cultivated the land and produced grain, pulse and grapes. The Italians were the first to exploit pumice and they built a pier for loading ships. Nevertheless, land cultivation and stock farming went on up to the II World War. Nowadays, some of the mineworkers live on the island with their families.

3. Archaeological sites and monuments

The island’s main monument is the Neolithic arched building at the top of the hill dominating the quarry of LAVA company. However, dust from the quarry covers it as time goes by; therefore, the construction of a shelter is now more than necessary.