SIA 5 : Mitsero Village


View over the village of Mitsero and Kokkinopezoulas mine, looking southwest.
(Photograph: Michael Given)

Mr Loizos Xynaris in his home, with agricultural implements.
(Photograph: Kylie Seretis)
Street with plastered mud brick house.
(Photograph: Michael Given)

The 'house of symbols', with stone carvings decorating its arch.
(Photograph: Kylie Seretis)

In 1997 and 1998, we systematically collected historical, oral and archaeological information on Mitsero village, the surrounding mines and associated features. An investigation of this changing landscape from the late 19th century to the present day forms a critical part of understanding the impact that both agricultural and mining practices have upon modern Cypriot villages and their inhabitants. Such an investigation also provides a unique opportunity to attempt to understand local people and their relationship to place through their own descriptions of the past, in comparison to the physical remains. It also provides the researcher a rare opportunity to glimpse lifestyles that are rapidly changing beyond recognition.

Before the beginning of major mining operations in the 1930s, the primary income for the villagers derived from agricultural pursuits. There were no main roads, and access to other villages and to Nicosia was by means of unpaved tracks. Physical evidence for ancient metallurgy existed in the form of large slag heaps but there was no contemporary mining.

During this mining phase, from 1930 to the 1970s, a number of the villagers worked for the mines; the men worked in the mines and in communications, while the women worked in the company canteens and shops. Agriculture still played a role in village life but as a secondary pursuit in terms of income. Food produced locally was supplemented by the village store. Miners were bussed from all over the island to work in these mines. A critical development in the 1950s was the construction of a modern road from Nicosia to Mitsero, reducing an all-day trip to a matter of one hour. As with any large scale industrial process, open cast mining led to permanent changes in the landscape.

Since the 1980s, the large mines of Kokkinoyia, Kokkinopezoula and Kriadhis have been quiet. The large machinery lies about unused and rusting away, or is gone, sold by the the Hellenic Mining Company for scrap, or 'stolen'. The large spoil heaps remain, a constant and familiar legacy in the landscape as to what lies below the surface. The only mining that takes place nowadays around here is the sand extracted from an area just northwest of Mitsero village, where the hillsides are continually blasted away by dynamite.

As with many villages in the Mediterranean area, Mitsero can be seen as a place that has elements of both ‘traditional’ and 'modern' culture. Older women and men (in their 60s and 70s) still do things in the traditional way, from making yoghurt to tending fields. They live in mudbrick houses that have not radically altered in shape, form or even contents to that of their parents and grandparents. For the younger generation the facade is that of the modern. They drive new cars and live in new houses, yet there is still an element of the past. Some move into the houses of their parents when they pass on, and although they modernise them they retain traditional elements too.

The physical impact of mining on the village and the villagers of Mitsero is evident in a number of ways, most obviously in the form of the large spoil heaps characteristic of open cast mining. Less obvious but just as important is the impact of the mines visible in the new main road from Nicosia to Mitsero (which now by-passes the village), the shops, the coffee houses and other public amenities that came in the wake of the Hellenic Mining Company's operations. Today very few people in the village work for the mines. Yet the impact of mining, and the change from an economy based on agriculture to one reliant on external employment, usually in the urban environment of Nicosia or elsewhere, has been of tremendous significance.