The island of Yali and the Neolithic Building

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Yali, with an area of 6 sq. Km., is the largest island of the groups of islands near Nisyros, in the lane in between Kos-Nisyros. It is also known as Kisserousa in antiquity; it owes its names to its geological composition, which largely determined its fate over the centuries, as a source of obsidian in antiquity and as a mine of pumice (Kίσσηρις in Greek) and perlite at the present time. It consists of two almost triangular mountain masses that are connected by an isthmus, 900 m long and 300 m wide. The north-western part of the islet consists mainly of obsidian, a naturally occurring hydrated gray volcanic glass with white spots, known as spherulites, a product formed when lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly. The north-western part of the islet consists mainly of pumice.

The obsidian of Yali, although more fragile than the most popular obsidian of Melos, was quite widespread in the Aegean and Anatolia for the production of tools from the 5th to the 3rd millennium BC. During the 2nd millennium BC, large pieces of obsidian arrived from Yali in the palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, and Malia in Crete, as an exotic raw material for the construction of artifacts and luxurious vessels.

The “strategic” location of the island in the sea passage from the coasts of Asia Minor to the Cyclades and close to the the deposits of raws of obsidian led to the early habitation of the island from the beginning of the 5th millennium BC. During the Final Neolithic Period (4500 / 4300-3200 BC), the whole island was inhabited, covering areas from its southern tip to the top of the Kaloutsi peninsula, on the hill of the Castle and further south around the chapel of Αyios Ioannis, as well as in the area of the isthmus and the northeastern side of the Yali, opposite to the island of Agios Antonios. However, οf the above extensive Neolithic occupation, only one large Neolithic building on the top of the hill, in the southwestern part of the island, remains today.

In the southern part of the hill, between the site of the large Neolithic building and the settlement at Kaloutsi, 74 small rectangular shallow pit graves were excavated, all of them found without grave goods, most probably dated to the 4th millennium BC. Their small size shows that the dead were buried in a crouched position, according to burial customs in this area of the Aegean.

Yali, was inhabited in the Hellenistic period when a fortification was built at the western end of the hill in Kastro. The presence of retaining walls, carvings, and a well on the east side of the hill until the location of the chapel of Ayios Ioannis, provide evidence for the occupation of the hill since the 4th c. BC to the Roman times. There is also an early Christian vaulted tomb in the northeastern part of the island, while in a small ravine, opposite the islet of Agios Antonios, a carved in the rock underground structure with niches might belong to a Nymphaeum.

Byzantines left the island as soon as the piracy was flourishing in the Aegean. Yali was depicted on on traveler maps in the 16th c., while in the 17th century when the exploitation of natural resources began, the population increased. More than 300 lodgings, sheds, or cheese dairies in the northeastern part of the island reveal the intensive exploitation of the island by the residents of Emporio in Nisyros during the last centuries of Ottoman rule. According to the local tradition, a well which still exists in the middle terrace of the island, was opened by Andreas Miaoulis, the admiral of the Greek Revolution, since the Greek fleet, under his leadersip, sailed to Gyali for water supply, after the naval battle of Gerondas (1824). Nowadays, life revolves around the two pumice and perlite mines operating in Gyali.

The Neolithic building in Υali

It is an elongated curved building, with an area of 102,375 sq.m., with two covered areas and a spacious semi-open-air courtyard. It has a paved floor with remains of a fire, which come from the fireplace of the house. The building is the largest so far, excavated structure of the 4th millennium BC of the Southeastern Aegean and can be related to emblematic sites of the Neolithic era, known both in the Asia Minor hinterland and in Thessaly, for example, Dimini. It stands out among the few examples of Neolithic buildings in the Aegean, like the buildings in the islet of Alimnia in the island group of Halki, Leftoporos in Karpathos, Ftelia in Mykonos, and Emporio in Chios.

It was built on a hill probably to control the busy waterway from the coasts of Asia Minor to the Cyclades. The structure is now covered by air transferred pumice, which essentially protects the building since it first came to light after six millennia.
The excavation of the Neolithic building gave us valuable information on the prehistoric society of Gyali and the activities of the inhabitants. Among the 77 vessels found, some characteristic utensils with holes in the rim, which are linked with cheese-making, stand out, while several imprints of straw mats on the clay reveal the connection of the residents with straw knitting. A color grater with remains of blue and violet dye is also associated with the occupation of the inhabitants, while the two funnels for the arsenic copper smelting confirm their early metallurgical skills and in general the role of Gyali in the process of transition to the Bronze Age.

Gyali, Nisyros, postal code 85303

Means of access:
By boat, afterwards by car

Disabled access:

Opening hours:
Islet: During the summer, day boat trips from Nisyros, access to a specific beach on the island., Building: After consulting and getting special permission

Entry fees:


Access Map

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The Gyali of Nisyros and the Neolithic building
Το Γυαλί της Νισύρου και το Νεολιθικό κτήριο

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