Prehistoric Periods - A. Bernard Knapp

Map of SCSP survey area with prehistoric pottery

 
Two chert blades, arranged horizontally with scale between. Upper: 8.3 cm. Lower: 7.7 cm from Agrokipia Paleokamina (SCY102) and the neighbouring site of Agrokipia Kottaphi (SCY216).
Photo: Michael Given.

2 blades, one long one short, arranged vertically. Left: 6.7 cm. Right: 3.5 cm from Agrokipia Paleokamina (SCY102)

Kriadhis, the hill northeast of Mitsero, on top of which is a Pottery Neolithic site (SCY012).
Photo: Michael Given

Basalt axe from Politiko Phournia (SCY200).
Inventory no. S-0070. Length 11 cm.

Prehistory

With the passing of time between the earliest Neolithic ('Old Stone Age') and the Bronze Age (about 8000-1000 BC), small regions in Cyprus - like the north central Troodos foothills - increasingly became more closely linked with other regions of Cyprus and with the wider Mediterranean world. We must consider how these wider connections influenced where people lived (settlement patterns) and how they survived (the resources they exploited). In this section, we attempt to place the work of SCSP in a wider context, both within Cyprus and in the sea and lands that surround it. We are concerned with an exceptionally long period of time, some 7000 years. The very age of archaeological material from these early periods of Cyprus’s cultural history perhaps helps to explain why the remaining evidence is so limited, and why we presume to cover so many years with so few words. We make use of both written records and archaeological sources to present this background to Cypriot prehistory, and to look at agricultural lands, mineral resources and communications on the island of Cyprus.

Cypro-Pre-Pottery Neolithic (9000-8600/8000 BC)

The only evidence for the presence of people in the SCSP area during the Cypro-Pre-Pottery Neolithic period comes from two places characterised almost exclusively by easily recognisable stone tools: Politiko Kelaïdhoni (SCY019) and Agrokipia Palaeokamina (SCY102). Both are found on chalky limestone hills. They were probably places where people actually made the tools, not where they lived. We have found no evidence that people were present in the SCSP area during the Akrotiri Phase (about 8600 BC) or during the Aceramic Neolithic (8000-5500 BC), but just because we have not found the evidence does not mean that people weren't living in, or exploiting the resources of this area.

Pottery Neolithic (5500-3900 BC)

The only place where we find evidence of the Pottery Neolithic is just northeast of Mitsero, on the steep hill called Kriadhis (SCY012). Here we found a very few painted pottery sherds typical of this time period, as well as some stone tools and stones for grinding grains. At an altitude of over 600 m, Kriadhis is situated in an unusual place for a site of such an early period. We had expected to find further evidence of Neolithic settlements in the SCSP area because it is so well-watered and because it contains good soils for agriculture and pine forests for hunting and wood. If any people were present at this time period, however, they escaped our notice

Chalcolithic (3900-2400 BC)

During the Chalcolithic period, for the first time we find some evidence suggesting that the people of Cyprus identified themselves with particular places or regions on the island. This social phenomenon reveals itself in the material remains, in particular in the styles of pottery produced at the time. The pottery collected at Politiko Phournia (SCY200), for example, had very distinctive and very similar fabric and decoration: some Late Chalcolithic fabrics with highly polished red and black surfaces ('Philia Red Lustrous Ware') are very similar to earlier, Middle Chalcolithic wares with their caramel-coloured and black polished surfaces ('Black Topped Wares'). Moreover, the very shiny red ware ('Philia Red Lustrous') found at Phournia is also found at other sites in the surrounding regions (near Ambelikou and Kyra).

Also for the first time during the Chalcolithic period, some people seem to have been regarded as having higher status in society than others. Even if this were the case, a rural, agricultural, essentially self-sufficient way of life still prevailed throughout the mountains, plains and villages of Cyprus.

Transitional Chalcolithic-Prehistoric Bronze Age (2600-1700 BC)

The transition from Chalcolithic to Bronze Age society on Cyprus was a very dynamic era, both socially and economically, for the people and the history of Cyprus. Even though the economy and culture throughout the island seem to flow on directly from Chalcolithic times, the archaeological evidence is at times ambiguous and confusing, and this period witnesses several notable changes in the material record (pottery, housing types, metals).

Many sites of an early phase of this period (Philia Culture) are clustered in the north and northwest of Cyprus, with a few distributed loosely around the Troodos; others have been found in the south and southwest. Within the SCSP area, both Ergates Spileadhia (SCY106) and Episkopio Vrysia (SCY107) contain Early Cypriot material. The former is located on a long, narrow hilltop, from which we recovered several very distinctive (Red Polished) pottery sherds and a small number of stone tools. Vrysia, by contrast, is located on a small knoll with panoramic views of the valley and plain that surround the Iron Age-Byzantine site of Tamassos (in Politiko village).

During the Bronze Age, most people lived in areas with good farming land and reliable watercourses. The archaeological discoveries near Vrysia and Phournia repeat this pattern, but those at Spileadhia do not. Elsewhere on the island, people were on the move during this time period, as settlements rose up everywhere. And for the first time, people began to exploit on a larger scale than ever before the copper resources within the Troodos foothills. Nonetheless, the people of the Early and Middle Cypriot periods still relied on an agricultural economy supplemented by the herding of sheep, goats and cattle. In this situation, people were wise to locate themselves somewhere between the Mesaoria Plain and the mineral-rich foothills of the Troodos mountains. In fact, such factors help to explain the location of every single prehistoric site within the survey area.

Protohistoric Bronze Age (1700-1100 BC)

During this final stage of the Bronze Age, several new towns involved in producing copper and exporting it overseas emerged along the coasts of Cyprus: amongst them are the famous archaeological sites of Enkomi, Palaeopaphos, Hala Sultan Tekke, and Kition. Most of these towns were situated at some distance from the major ore deposits in the Troodos foothills, and must have obtained their copper through trade or other economic exchanges within the island. We know from a variety of archaeological and documentary evidence that many different means were used to obtain the copper, transport it to coastal centres, and distribute it overseas on demand.

Several Bronze Age sites, both settlements and cemeteries, existed in our part of the northern Troodos foothills. These include everything from the important town at Morphou Toumba tou Skourou, to a mining village at Apliki Karamallos, the cemeteries of Katydhata and Pendayia, and settlements at Akhera Chiflik Paradisi, Akaki Trounalli, Dhenia Mali and Dhenia Kafkalla. In the SCSP area, we found a possible agricultural village at Aredhiou Vouppes (SCY010), and a very early copper smelting site at Politiko Phorades (SCY100).

Politiko Phorades was a small metal-working site, but it is likely to have produced more copper than was needed in the immediate area. The second place where we found Bronze Age pottery and related material is Aredhiou Vouppes, located on the banks of the Aloupis River, where the agricultural plain meets the metal-bearing foothills. The discovery at Vouppes of fragments from storage vessels (pithoi) of very different sizes raises the possibility that Vouppes may have been an 'official' agricultural support village: that is, somehow it may have provisioned one or more mining encampments in the Troodos foothills.

Were Aredhiou Vouppes and Politiko Phorades part of a local political or economic grouping centred in the Politiko area, a precursor of the Iron Age kingdom of Tamassos? Although we cannot dismiss this possibility, no current or previous archaeological investigations in this region have found evidence for a Late Bronze Age town centre near Politiko. And yet, we find a thin spread of Late Bronze Age pottery spread across the broad plains just northwest of Tamassos: could this indicate the fertilisation of fields (with pottery all mixed up with manure, etc.) surrounding a still undiscovered ‘site’ in this area? Or was the Politiko region oriented to the southeast, toward sites such as Idalion or Kition? Alternatively, could the area have been linked to the east and to Enkomi via Nicosia and Sinda, a lengthy but perhaps less troublesome journey over the Mesaoria Plain? With archaeology, only time and further research and fieldwork can help to provide a solution.

Summary

Excepting Pottery Neolithic Mitsero Kriadhis and Early Bronze Age Ergates Spileadhia, all prehistoric sites in the SCSP area are located on or within 100 m of a water source. With the exception of the smelting site at Politiko Phorades, all other prehistoric places we found are situated in the agricultural zone: they were most likely farmsteads or small agricultural villages. For these small, prehistoric, agricultural 'sites', the geological importance of the arable ('sedimentary') and metal-bearing ('igneous') zones that transect the SCSP area (running northwest-southeast) is threefold:

1) the agricultural prominence of all the places found in the sedimentary zone, on or near annual water courses, is clear and establishes a pattern that unfolds on a much larger scale in later periods;
2) the industrial prominence of all the places found in or near the Lower Pillow Lavas of the igneous zone is best represented by Politiko Phorades, and is repeated on a larger scale during subsequent periods of time;
3) the existence of archaeological places involved in producing or using stone tools is based on easy access to the most common types of 'lithic' raw materials, either as igneous rocks carried along by the rivers or as chert embedded in a specific geological formation running through the fringes of the foothills throughout the SCSP area.

Both the stone and metal resources of the igneous zone were used throughout the long history of production and settlement in the SCSP region. Within the SCSP area, three places have major lithic components:
(1) Politiko Kelaödhoni (SCY019)
(2) Agrokipia Palaeokamina (SCY102) and
(3) Politiko Gastres (SCY212).

About 20 other places have notable numbers of stone tools. Early Prehistoric material is restricted primarily to the eastern parts of our survey area. During the Late Bronze Age, this situation seems to coincide with the location of other Late Bronze Age sites and material found mainly to the north and northwest of the SCSP region, and may be associated with an important communications route through the region.