Introducing Maritime Trades of the Cyclades

How does the sea shape Cycladic identity and culture? What do maritime crafts signify for the future of the Cyclades? Can boatbuilding, small-scale fishing, and seafaring contribute to the sustainable development of the Aegean islands?

Archipelago Network introduces Maritime Trades of the Cyclades, inviting you to explore the Cyclades from a different perspective and imagine an alternative future. Navigate between Amorgos, Koufonisia, Paros, Santorini and Syros through an interactive digital map, exploring images, sounds, and narratives as you meet the boatbuilders, fishers, and sailors of these islands.

At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the Aegean archipelago has long served as a meeting point for seafarers, travelers, and migrants, shaping diverse communities and cultural practices. Boatbuilding, small-scale fishing, and seafaring are closely tied to Cycladic identity and culture.

Throughout history, wooden boats have served as connecting links between the islands and the surrounding region. Over time, they evolved into a form of traditional Aegean architecture, connected to a distinct system of technical craftsmanship. Small-scale fishing, a timeless source of sustenance and economic activity, encompasses a plethora of techniques and symbolic knowledge about the marine environment. Finally, seafaring has been the main conduit in the region for the movement of people and the exchange of goods and ideas.

Currently, Greece is experiencing a rapid reduction of wooden boatbuilding and use of traditional wooden boats; one of the biggest threats faced is the destruction of wooden fishing boats with subsidies provided by the Greek government, an EU regulation aimed at reducing the fishing fleet and its environmental impact. Through documentation and advocacy, this project aims to raise awareness for the living tradition of boatbuilding, and to participate in a campaign to end these subsidies while pursuing alternative, sustainable fishing methods.

Via the on-site digitizing of archival collections, as well as production of extensive audiovisual documentation, Maritime Trades of the Cyclades provides a digital record attesting to the technical and experiential knowledge of these communities, as well as related cultural practices and beliefs. Over twelve months, this project has produced thousands of documentary photographs arranged into 43 discrete collections; dozens of hours of field recordings and digitized sound recordings; 3D models of selected woodworking tools; over 500 digitized photographs and rare archival documents, presented in 19 archival collections; and a 12 part docu-series.

Browse the digital map here.

Fishing boat storage caves in Armeni (Santorini). Photo credit: Maurizio Borriello.