Since the Koufonissia have been known since prehistoric times, there are many versions on how they got their name. Some say it came from “Koufos Limen”, meaning a safe haven, some others from the many caves and sedimentary rock around the island, which makes it look hollow (koufo).
You can choose between the two versions whichever you deem more appropriate.
The fact that the Koufonissia have been inhabited since prehistoric times is proved by the archaeological finds excavated at times on both islands and Keros.
Kato Koufonissi and Keros are now archaeological sites and human activity is restricted there.
Finds include Cycladic vessels, objects from the Hellenistic and Roman periods, early Christian relics and marble “thorakia” (panels that filled the gap between the marble altar columns in early Christian churches).
Many of these finds can now be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Naxos and the churches of St George and St Nicholas on Pano Koufonissi.
The present day village seems to have been built on the site of a large Roman settlement.
The islands’ history is not very different from that of the rest of the Cyclades. They were in turn under the Venetians and the Turks and were incorporated in the newly founded Greek state in 1830, together with the rest of the Cyclades.
Whereas the postwar (WW2) population of Koufonissi was around 1000, a large part gradually moved to the cities or went to sea.
Today the island has 440 inhabitants.
In the past contact with the surrounding islands and the rest of Greece was very difficult and relied on the fishing boats and a ship that called at the island very rarely.
Often, when the weather was bad, the inhabitants would have to go without basic supplies or medical treatment for days or even weeks at a time.