SCY023 : Mitsero Mavrovounos

Medieval Settlement

Grid reference: 509500/3877600
Cadastral plans: XXIX/52, XXIX/53
Aerial photo: 1993, Run 177, No. 41
SIA: SIA 1 (Mitsero Mavrovounos)

The western end of the east slag heap at Mavrovounos runs directly onto a small hill or knoll, whose slopes and summit are covered with piles and lines of rubble, thickly overgrown with hawthorn, terebinth, thorny burnet and wild grasses. This rubble marks the settlement of Mavrovounos or, in the Italian version used on the16th- and 17th-century maps, 'Maurochio'. The principal part of the settlement lies on the western and southern slopes of the knoll (SCY023a). One hundred metres to the northwest a low ridge runs down towards the river, with more rubble piles, a well, and a series of artificially levelled platforms (SCY023b). Between these two parts of the settlement lies a field that mostly derives from accumulated sediments because of a large check dam on its southern edge, across a small first order gully (SCY023c).

The most characteristic feature of the settlement's position is its location on a knoll immediately above the river in the upper part of a valley. Thus it was close to the water supply, by means of wells going down to the water table, and it did not occupy prime arable land. This compares well with Politiko Phorades 2 (SCY101), Klirou Manastirka (SIA 2) and to some extent Mitsero village. Such a situation may also provide more of a breeze, for comfort and for winnowing grain on the threshing floors. The choice of a site immediately adjacent to the ancient slag heaps also seems relevant, particularly because that choice is reflected in the settlement’s name.

Many of the rubble piles, though large, are fairly amorphous, and only give a general idea of the layout of the settlement. Only in two examples are the outlines of entire structures clear. The dating of this settlement rests largely on the pottery found within it. Because the area was so overgrown, most pottery was found on the rubble piles, and tended to consist of large pieces, as the smaller pieces fall through. This may account for the high proportion of large pithos fragments and large jasper cores. The field between the two parts of the settlement (SCY023c) is of particular importance because of the amount of diagnostic material recovered there.

The Structures

In the southeast corner of the settlement is the clear outline of a building which measures 10 x 5 m (Sub-Unit 8). The long axis follows the contour, and as the slope here is relatively steep, the northern part at the rear must have been dug into the bank, and the front, southern wall built up to make a platform. There was a considerable amount of pottery in and next to this structure, including some 16 sherds of Medieval/Modern coarse ware and another two which were certainly Medieval; three sherds of galeftiri, of which one was Medieval and the other two Medieval/Modern. Two glazed fine ware pieces can be dated more precisely to the 16th century. The galeftiri (spouted pan) is a common form across the settlement, particularly as only the spouts and rims are easily identifiable, and was probably used for milking, like its modern equivalents.

There is a particularly clear complex in the northwest corner of the settlement, consisting of a courtyard on the south and two rooms to the north, one leading off the other (Sub-Unit 14). Allowing for the space taken up by the rubble collapse, the courtyard measures some 10 x 12 m. There may be an additional structure on the west.

The extent of the collapse means that passages and doorways are not detectable. This organisation of space, with successive rooms abutting on their long sides and leading off a courtyard, is a familiar type in the surviving late Ottoman and early colonial village houses of Cyprus. Of the ten pieces of pottery found within this structure, the one dateable glazed piece is a 17th-century Cypriot Glazed IX Late body sherd. Four pieces of pithos cannot be dated any more specifically than Medieval/Modern, and the same applies to three coarse ware sherds. It is very probable that the storage facilities provided by the many pithos fragments found in the settlement date to the period when it was inhabited.

Judging by its construction and the smaller volume of rubble, the wall in Sub-Unit 20 seems to be a more recent agricultural terrace. The sub-unit nonetheless is important for the pottery found within it. As usual, much of the coarse ware can only be dated to the Medieval/Modern periods, although one of these is part of the rim and handle of a galeftiri. Apart from one Medieval glazed piece, this sub-unit has a more substantial Ottoman component, with three plain glazed sherds, two of them brown. There is also a large olive millstone (mortarium) with a diameter of 105 cm and a thickness of 75 cm; on each face are roughly square sockets. The shape and dimensions are very similar to those of millstones found on Hellenistic to Late Roman sites in Cyprus.

Dating

Because of the precision with which we can date the Cypriot Glazed series of Medieval and Ottoman pottery, examining that material in particular from Mavrovounos is the best means we have of dating the period of occupation of the settlement. Because of the poor visibility in the settlement itself, we had to include material from the gridded circles in SCY023c and from the block survey. Some of the block survey pottery may not represent settlement, of course, and this count is only the barest indicator of intensive activity within the landscape.

Of the 85 glazed sherds from SIA 4 dateable to within one or two centuries, there are 15 from the 13th-15th centuries, 54 from the 16th century alone, and 16 from the 17th-18th centuries. The peak of the settlement was clearly the 16th century, as is common elsewhere in the survey area. This also fits in with the local tradition of the village being abandoned a few hundred years ago because of the plague; one informed source in the village even declares that it happened in 1700, a date that matches in general terms the lichen on the rubble heaps.