SIA 3: Mitsero Kouloupakhis

The slag heap at Mitsero Kouloupakhis, one of the largest in the survey area and indeed in the whole of the Troodos mountains, is what defines this area as an SIA. It is located on relatively flat land near the base of the large hill at Kriadhis, approximately 1 km northeast of Mitsero village. The heap is now dissected by a modern road, and has been quarried extensively over the last 50 years.

Most of SIA 3 is situated on well watered, arable land presently cultivated for cereals and fruit trees. Based on the survey data, the first clear evidence of human occupation in this area dates from the Archaic to Classical periods. The remains of these early periods, however, are overshadowed by the impressive remnants of an industrial scale copper smelting workshop dating to the Late Roman period.

Although there are three significant cupriferous ore bodies within a radius of 2 km from the slag heaps at Kouloupakhis, there are none in its direct vicinity. So why was this specific location was chosen for the establishment of such a workshop? In order to function smoothly, a smelting workshop requires ores, fuel and fluxes. The fuel used is charcoal, and although at present Kriadhis hill is nearly denuded, in the past it would have supported good charcoal sources such as Quercus alnifolia.

Chemical analyses of the slags from Kouloupakhis detected a significant amount of manganese, which suggests that umbers were used as fluxes in the smelting furnaces of the Late Roman period. On Kriadhis there are several umber outcrops, and so fluxes would have been readily available as well. The Likythia River and its tributaries would have provided the necessary water for ore beneficiation, clay preparation and drinking, as well as refractory clay and igneous rocks for the construction of the furnaces.

The slag heap is clearly the result of large scale production which must have employed a significant number of workers. We should therefore consider where all these people might have lived and where they would have been buried. The distribution of Late Roman pottery within SIA 3 shows a concentration just north of the slag heap. Because it is unlikely that a settlement would have been located so close to copper workshops with their by-products of poisonous sulphur dioxide fumes, we might suggest that these artefacts indicate the location of some kind of mining camp for the workers, or else administrative buildings for the people in charge of the operation.