In the rocky and infertile islands of the Cycladic insular group, with restricted arable land and pastures, one of the most significant civilizations of the prehistoric Aegean was developed during the Early Bronze Age (3rd millenium BC): the Cycladic civilization. The geographic position of the islands in the south Aegean, between the vast land of Greece and Asia Minor, as well as the sea which allowed navigation to all directions and the development of the marine trade contributed considerably to the development of the Cycladic civilization.

According to archaeological finds from Melos, the human presence on the Cycladic islands dates to the Upper Palaeolithic (11th millenium BC) and is associated with the extraction of obsidian for the manufacture of sharp implements such as those found in the Peloponnese, in the Franchthi Cave of Hermionid. Traces of a more permanent settlement are detected from the 8th millenium BC at Maroulas on Kythnos whereas systematic habitation of the islands takes place during the Late Neolithic (4800-4500 BC) and the Final Neolithic (4500-3200 BC) as a result of the development of navigation and the quest of durable raw materials such as obsidian and other metals. The use of these metals was bound to mark the agrarian economy of the Neolithic Aegean communities.

The Cycladic culture is a natural evolution of the Kephala culture of Attica in the Final Neolithic period. It is distinguished in three periods: the Early Cycladic I (3200-2800 BC), known also as Grotta-Pelos culture, the Early Cycladic II (2800-2300 BC) or Keros-Syros culture and the Early Cycladic III (2300-2000 BC) known as Phylakopi I.

Small settlements with stone-built houses, cemeteries with cist graves, marble figurines and vases constitute the main traits of the Early Cycladic culture, these being formed already from the Early Cycladic I. The extraction of metals, a particularly remarkable development of navigation and the expansion of trading in the entire Aegean characterize the Early Cycladic II period, the golden period of the Cycladic culture. During this period, the so-called "international spirit" dominates in the Aegean. This term was formulated by the British C. Renfrew, the most significant researcher of the prehistoric Cyclades after Chr. Tsountas. Intense contacts with the northern and eastern Aegean and probable movement of population during the transitional stage Kastri, are succeeded by the abandonment of the old small settlements and lead to the creation of new large settlements during the Early Cycladic III period.

The most important Early Cycladic sites.
Reconstruction of a three-figure
marble complex and two-figure complex.