1. Location and geomorphology

Keros is between Naxos and Amorgos and, together with the neighbouring islands of Irakleia, Schinousa, Koufonisia and Donousa forms the chain of the so-called Small East Cyclades (or Islands of Amorgos). The island is totally uninhabited. The land is hilly, the highest points being Mount Papas (432 m) and the massifs of Plateia Rachi (315 m) and Panagitsa (274 m) covering the centre of the island, while along the shore there is some flat and fertile land. The coastline is only slightly sinuous and, as a result, there are only a few little and protected bays formed mainly in the south and northeast of the island.

2. History and archaeology

The history of Keros is inversely proportional to the present abandoned and deserted picture. In the Early Cycladic period (3rd millennium BC) Keros became one of the most important centres of the Cycladic civilization. Together with the settlement and the cemetery of Chalandriani of Syros, they determined the development of the mature period of the Cycladic civilization, the Early Cycladic period II, dated between 2800-2300 BC and internationally known as "Keros-Syros phase". The famous figurines (the "Harpist", the "Flute player" and the "Cup bearer"), as well as the variety of marble and ceramic wares and objects from the island (Kavos Daskaleiou, Konakia) prove the central and decisive role of Keros in the prevalence and spread of the Cycladic features. Not much is known about the other historical periods, except that the island joined the Athenian League after the Persian wars, as most of the Cyclades did, under the name Kereia. In the Middle Ages, Keros, just like the entire cluster of the Small East Cyclades, became a base and den of pirates, resulting in the economy and life of its inhabitants being determined by piracy. During the early modern period, Keros belonged to the monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa of Amorgos. In 1952, the island was assigned to shepherds by the Agricultural Service of Greece.

3. The "Treasure of Keros"

The importance of Keros in the Early Cycladic period is proven by the "Treasure of Keros". This is a set of several hundreds of objects in the Cycladic style, comprising intact marble figurines and purposely smashed figurines, marble ware and pottery, stone tools and small objects, dated in the Early Cycladic II; their exact origin is unknown. The objects are the product of traffic in stolen antiquities; they were illicitly exported from Greece in the 1950s and graced museums all over the world. Today part of the "Treasure" has come home and is exhibited in the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. After the excavations that took place on Keros, it has been held possible that the treasure came from the location "Kavos Daskaleiou" on the west coast of the island, where, despite the extensive and devastating plunder, there is an open-air area with numerous smashed figurines, marble ware and pottery fragments, providing a magnified picture of the "Treasure of Keros". Providing an explanation for this accumulation of objects is not easy, because the place must have been neither a settlement nor a cemetery nor a workshop, since the objects are not unfinished but purposely smashed. The prevalent view (according to C. Renfrew) is that the place must have been a shrine or a place to deposit smashed objects of a symbolic character, deliberately left there during some ritual. Moreover, the discovery of a cave by the archaeologist Christos Doumas, at a site where Early Cycladic objects were found, led the excavator to formulate the hypothesis that Keros played the role of the sacred island of the Cyclades, the gate to the Underworld, where all neighbouring islands deposited the remains of their dead. The originality of "Kavos Daskaleiou" highlights the central - and difficult to interpretate - role of Keros, while the discovery of an Early Cycladic fortified settlement and cemetery on the islet Daskaleio, which was connected with the mainland in Antiquity, may contribute to a deeper understanding of the island’s importance.

4. Keros today

Today, the only evidence of life on the island is some shacks at the location "Konakia", in the middle of the north coast, used by the stock-breeders who seasonally visit the island, as well as some little chapels (Konakia, Panagitsa). The elementary road system is very rough, comprising more or less passable and narrow dirt roads, which cross the centre of the island and are used only by stock-breeders.