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      Δονούσα (5/3/2006 v.1) Donousa (5/4/2006 v.1)

Author(s) : Tsonos Konstantinos (3/31/2005)
Translation : Dovletis Onoufrios (8/4/2006)

For citation: Tsonos Konstantinos, "Donousa", 2006,
Cultural Portal of the Aegean Archipelago

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1. Geographical Position - Environment

Of all the islands of the Small Eastern Cyclades group, Donousa is the one situated farthest to the northeast. The group is located between Naxos and Amorgos, also including Koufonisia, Schoinousa, Irakleia and Keros. Donousa is located 9 miles to the east of Naxos and 14 miles to the north of Amorgos, with an area of 13 km2, and holds a resident population of 160 (2001). Its ground is semi-mountainous and mount Papos (383 m), located approximately in the center of Donousa, is its highest peak. Plains on Donousa are few. Vegetation is bushy though, favoring stock farming. Its subsoil is also rich in zinc. It has many short shores that form steep oblong capes and successive coves, many of which harbor beautiful quite beaches with thin sand.

2. History

First traces of habitation on Donousa date from the Protocycladic Period (3rd millennium BC), as shown by the two settlements at the sites Achtia ton Agrilion and Myti tou Trachyla. Residents had obviously formed two small communities based on stock farming and fishing, integrated into the broad cultural network of the Protocycladic civilization.

The island prospered during Geometric Times (10th-7th century BC), as illustrated by the fortified settlement of Vathy Limenari (at the southeastern part of the island), near Myti tou Trachyla. Significant findings uncovered there demonstrate a greater influence from the Dodecanese rather than the Cyclades.

Numerous funeral pyres –a very common burial rite at that time– have also been uncovered around the settlement. Little is known about the following periods, although we do know Donousa was used as an exile destination during Roman Times. During Middle Ages and Ottoman rule, it was a pirate lair and an ideal place for herding and fishing.

In 1941, Donousa initially came under Italian rule, since the Axis Powers had taken over Greece. After Italy capitulated in 1943, the island came under German rule until it was finally liberated in 1944.

3. Archaeological sites – Monuments

Donousa (aka Stavros), located on the eastern coast, is both the capital and the port. There are four more settlements (Kalotaritissa, Mersini, Mesaria and Charavgi) along the southeastern side of Donousa, connected with each other with the main road network. An asphalted secondary road network leads to the rest of the island, as to the beaches of Kedros and Livadi or Vathy Limenari, which is the island’s most important archaeological site. There are many paths too, running through massifs and inaccessible areas. Only through such paths can someone visit the Toichos cave, on Aspros Kavos cape to the northwest, and Fokospilia (“Seal cave”) to the southeast, which used to be a refuge for the Mediterranean seal.

4. Traditional architecture

The island’s five settlements have a remarkable architecture, a lot different than the modern image of larger Cycladic islands with many tourists. The Aegean tradition is expressed through the stone lime-rendered houses, the spacious cool interiors, the large yards and the impressive balconies, and the narrow slab-paved streets, points of social interaction.

5. Donousa today

The residents occupy themselves basically with stock farming and fishing. Bushy vegetation, which covers much of the island’s area, favors apiculture, an occupation also found on other small or large mountainous Cycladic islands. More and more travellers choose Donousa for their vacation over the past years, since there are more itineraries connecting the Small Eastern Cyclades with one another, with Piraeus (all year long), and with the large nearby islands and the Dodecanese. This has affected the locals, who try to create the appropriate infrastructure without spoiling the traditional character of the island. Stavros, apart from being the port (it recently developed its docking infrastructure) and the capital, it is also the administration center. It therefore tries to fulfill yearlong, in the best way possible, the needs of locals and tourists that choose Donousa for their vacation.

6. Churches

Beautiful churches complement the landscape. They are strongly connected with the social milieu, and their large yards are a place of social interaction. Some of the most beautiful churches are at Stavros (e.g. Timios Stavros/Holy Cross, Panagia/Virgin Mary, Agios Ioannis/St John). The churches are the centers of settlements or neighborhoods, as demonstrated by their being larger than all other buildings. Very often, they have blue cupolas, higher than all buildings, so that it they are visible from a distance. That also underlines the church’s prominent place amongst all other buildings. Many small Aegean settlements have been declared listed, a fact that helps preserve this image, and promotes development in a human scale.

7. Alternative energy sources – Technological parks

We must also mention a mixed system used for producing electricity, which combines the traditional hydraulic production system with modern accumulators for storing the energy produced. This proves how useful such "untouched" places can be for experimenting on technologies that respect renewable sources of energy, so that alternative solutions to daily problems of modern life can be provided.




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