The name of Schinoussa is found in texts of Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century travelers observed that it supplied the neighboring island of Amorgos with quantities of the shrub schinos (Pistacia lentiscus) that were used as firewood.
According to another version, it was named after Schinoza, a Venetian nobleman who is said to have kept a tower house here during the period of Frankish rule.
Although the island does not have any organized archaeological sites or listed monuments, the finds, such as statuettes and parts of marble columns –most of which are on display at the Naxos Archaeological Museum, confirm that Schinoussa participated in the creation of the Proto-Cycladic civilization (3200-2800 ΒC) and continued to be inhabited in later antiquity.
German-born Ludwig Ross (1806-1859), who became the first archaeology professor in the University of Athens, reported finds of various periods on the island, ranging from antiquity to the period of the Venetian ascendancy on the island, including ancient farm terraces.
The farming character of island appears to have changed little since antiquity, and olive oil presses and windmills operated until recent times.
Abundant ceramic finds and many ruined medieval chapels (Ai Giannis, Agios Antonios, Profitis Ilias, Stavros, Agia Triada) suggest that Schinoussa developed a brisk commercial activity during Byzantine times.
The island is also referred to as a haunt of pirates, who used the coves of Merssini, Sifneiko, Liolios, Bazeos and Gerolimnionas as anchorages.
During Ottoman times Schinoussa was deserted and became the property of Chozoviotissa Monastery, on the neighboring island of Amorgos.
After Greek independence in the 1820’s, the monastery granted the right of settlement to some families from Amorgos to cultivate the land.
The settlers’ community gradually grew into settlements with schools and churches, and despite adverse conditions, the inhabitants managed to develop trade with the neighboring islands. In later decades, poverty forced a large number of them to emigrate.
The growth of tourism and the creation of secondary schools in the last 20 years seem to have made a significant contribution to a growth of the permanent population.