Archaeology - Excavations and Findings
The first findings that witness existence of life on the Island of Corfu are dated as far back as the Upper Palaeolithic Era (30,000BC-9,000BC).They have been found in the cave of Grava at Gardiki which is in the village of Agios Mathaios, 22km southwest of Corfu town and very near the Gardiki Byzantine Castle. These findings are based on animal remains and tools made of Pyrites Stone.
Ceramic pots and other artefacts of the New Stone Age as well as the Bronze Age have been found in Afiona. These ceramic items resemble the ceramic Molfetta of Apoulia. Also they have found some archaeological sites of the Ancient and New Bronze Age at Cape Kefali and Ermones, which are located near the sea and a small distance from the area of Vatos.
The history of the Island of Corfu begins in 734BC with the inhabitation of the Corinthians. The ancient city which Thucydides describes spread to the whole of Cape Kanoni. The citadel was located in the area of Analipsis. The aristocratic district was located at the side of Saint Efimia and to the whole area of the Mon Repos Park. On the other side of the island where the airport is situated nowadays is where the district of democrats was located.
In the whole area of Cape Kanoni there came to the surface many archaeological findings, either by chance or by organized excavations. The most ancient monument of the historical period is the Temple of Artemis. This monument is a unique ancient Corinthian structure, which is dated 585BC. The most important thing about the architectural structure of the temple is the pediment of mermaid which consisted of 21 stone plaques of which only 12 have survived, this mermaid pediment can be found restored at the Archaeological Museum in Corfu. The temple is considered to be one of 150 masterpieces of Western architecture.
At Mon Repos Park were found some ruins of a sanctuary which were recognized at first to be from the Corinthian era at the end of 8th century BC, it was surrounded with a garden in the 7th century and a big temple was built there, archaeologists believe that this was the Heraion, which Thucydides mentions. In the same area near the Kardiakos fountain, ruins of a Dorian temple of 510BC are stored. Opposite to the entrance of Mon Repos Park in the area Paliopoli, there can be found remains of the church St. Kerkyra.
The cemetery of the historical town was located in the Gulf of Garitsa, in the north and southwest of the island. The most valuable monuments to be found there are Xembaros (mid 6th century BC). The Cenotaph of Menekrates, with a circled base and an inscription in the Corinthian alphabet 6th century. Near the cenotaph the Lion of Menekrates was found (end of 7th century BC).
All these findings which are in the Archaeological Museum in Corfu are not evaluated in the entire history of the ancient civilisation of the island. There could have been a lot more representation. But in the 6th century AD the Goths completely destroyed the historical city. They did not leave anything standing. Later, when the Venetians built walls around the new town 16th century AD they used the structures and materials of the ruins of the old city. In the same era the period of the Venetian empire many ancient Corfiot monuments and artefacts were transported to Italy. The transportation of the artefacts kept on during the French and English occupations as there was not any kind of law at the time which protected the relics, many testimonials of travellers and others verify the pillage of the relics. With the union of the 7 Ionian Islands with the rest of Greece and with the new laws that came into place which protected the artefacts the looting came to an end.
As well as in the historical city, ancient artefactThe first findings that witness existence of life on the Island of Corfu are dated as far back as the Upper Palaeolithic Era (30,000BC-9,000BC).They have been found in the cave of Grava at Gardiki which is in the village of Agios Mathaios, 22km southwest of Corfu town and very near the Gardiki Byzantine Castle. These findings are based on animal remains and tools made of Pyrites Stone.
s and monuments have been found on other parts of the island, these findings which came from unintentional searches prove that there were some highly populated settlements in the countryside during the prehistoric and historic times. During a period of prosperity and before the Peloponnesian war when the population of the island had reached 100,000 systematic discoveries would bring into light many dark periods of the history of Corfu. But the archaeologists do not research the dark periods because there is no documented proof which can give any indication for the existence of a settlement in one place or another. Because the findings came to the surface randomly archaeologists do not believe that they are proof for inspiring new archaeological unearthing. So it remains unexamined even if Corfu was meant to be the mythical position of the Phaeacians where Odysseus was accepted by king Alkinoos. Up until now it has not been found on the surface nor underground on Corfu any traces of Phaeacian civilization according to Homer's Odyssey. So there is a gap of some centuries in the prehistory of Corfu that covers the Mycenaean civilization.
Systematic exploration and discoveries of the historic city started in 1812 in the period that Corfu was occupied by the French. Opening fortified trenches starting from Garitsa to Lake Halikiopoulou, the French came across many findings which are connected with the historic city, they continued to discover in a scientific way and the artifacts which were found consists of the core of the collection of the Ionian Academy.