The Ecomuseum at Ano Meria, Folegandros, was opened in the summer of 1988. It presents the way of life of a rural homestead in days gone by and its form is best understood by briefly describing its spatial, social and economic context, divorced from the historic past of the island which, in general terms, was much the same as that of the other nearby islands of the Lesser Cyclades.
On the left of the public road leading from Chora to Ano Meria a narrow, rocky pathway wends its way up to the entrance to the «thimonia». The low wooden gate at the entrance is a copy of the original. The steps have been rebuilt. The earliest building, is estimated to have been built in the 17th century. It is divided into three areas: the house, the oil-presscheesery and the oven. The walls are of dry-stone masonry, i.e. without any kind of mortar. The mason’s skill was in selecting the appropriate stones for joining together the large and the small, an art all farmers had to know in order to meet their own needs. Those parts of the walls which were found demolished have been restored in the same way. In the remaining sections of the walls small stones were inserted in the interstices between the large ones («boukarologima»). The outside of the walls has been left unplastered, as they were found.
The collapsed ceilings and roofs were also renovated. The traditional technique used throughout the Cyclades was used: the ceiling was covered by large schistose slabs supported by beams of unplaned tree trunks spanning the entire length of the room, for which reason the buildings were always long and narrow, so that the length of the trees was sufficient. A mixture of lime and earth was spread over the slabs or along the joins and on top of this a thick layer of dried seaweed. Finally, the entire roof was covered with a clean argillaceous earth which becomes impervious on drying. This earth was carried by donkey from a field some distance away.
The original old wooden doors have been replaced by as accurate copies as possible, along with the peculiar wooden locks with wooden key. The carpenter, once a fisherman, is also from Ano Meria. The largest of the three buildings served as the residence of the family until the 19th century. At the end of the century, when a new homestead was built within the same «thimonia», it was used as a cellar in which the harvest was stored in large storage jars and other pottery vessels. The tools and implements used by the peasants were left here.
The adjacent building housed the oilpress and cheesery. The process of oil production, however, began outside with the crushing of the olives using the heavy stone cylinder, rotated on the built stone base by wooden axles turned by three men. The pulp was collected in special sacks, handknitted by the women, and carried into the room of the oil-press where they were placed in turn on a large stone slab (1.50m. long) fitted into the wall horizontally and slightly sloping. With a specially fashioned wooden lever inserted in a socket in the wall, the sack was pressed heavily so that the oil flowed into a special vessel. Simultaneously, the fire was lit in the room of the oilpress, to ensure sufficient boiling water for pouring over the sack being pressed by the lever. The olive oil was collected in special jars, glazed inside.
The third area of the building is the oven, which was fired with scrub, furze and thyme. Next to it is the essential shelf, which has been equipped with all the other necessities of a household oven. The chimney, like all those in the old settlement, is a pottery jar without bottom.
The fold for the animals on the north side of the «thimonia» is contemporary with the old house. The dry-stone walls and the roof have been restored in the traditional manner. The settlement relied entirely on rainwater which ran off the roof and was collected in cisterns, two of which have been preserved in the «thimonia» and have been cleaned out and waterproofed.
The small threshing floor of the «thimonia», the plough, harrow and other agricultural implements have survived. At the centre of the «thimonia» traces of a very primitive pressing floor for grapes have been found, an example of adapting nature to man’s needs: on the flat surface of the small low rock projecting above ground level, a small rectangular basin has been constructed.
In this the peasant stamped his grapes with his feet. The must ran down the channel cut into the rock into a smaller, round rock-cut pit, still stained from the wine. A small hollow next to it held the cup for tasting the wine.
The large oblique slabs set up out of doors beside the cistern are the laundry installation for washing the clothes. In the north dry-stone wall was the tiny «orchard» with its sole lemon tree, planted recently. The Folegandriote «orchard» had just one tree, enclosed by a high, drystone wall to protect it from the strong winds.
At the end of the 19th century a new residence was built on the west side of the «thimonia», exemplifying the diachronic development of the local culture, with three spacious rooms: the parlour, bedchamber and kitchen. The floor was paved with whitish slabs, the small windows, the ceiling with stone slabs and beams and the roof have been renovated using traditional techniques and material. In the flowerbeds of the forecourt Folegandriote decorative plants have been planted.
Between the house and the cistern is a small, unroofed space with dry-stone walling which was the hen-coop. This Museum, portraying the way of life of a rural unit of the past, presents to the younger generation a knowledge of its identity, enabling it to observe the changes wrought by time on cultural, social and ecological conditions. Furthermore it offers material for study by Ethnologists and Folklorists interested in the sources of Hellenism.
|from Chora||4.2 km|
|from Karavostasis||7.6 km|
|from Ano Meria||1.1 km|
|from Agali||2 km|
|Access by:||Car / Motorbike / Local Bus|