SIA 9 : Klirou Ayios Mamas

The recently reconstructed church of Ayios Mamas lies 2.5 km southeast of Klirou in a gently sloping landscape, with broad east-west terraces crossing the upper part of a small valley. The area was selected for examination in response to local informants who told us about mining activity, ancient tombs and the remains of two abandoned villages in the area. The church was rebuilt in 1994 on the remains of an earlier church, which can be made out on the 1963 aerial photograph. SCSP's main aims in this area were to carry out block survey and an intensive examination of the two reported settlements; to compare the oral traditions with the surviving material evidence; and to investigate the creation of arable land in the valley by means of check dams.

There is certainly abundant evidence of activity in the area, with rubble piles, the church and check dams, and occasionally considerable densities of pottery. It seems probable that the rubble piles at SCY134 and SCY206, when taken with the tile fragments and higher densities of pottery, do mark the positions of structures of some sort, presumably deriving from the foundations of mud-brick structures. The outcrop at SCY134 is roughly 100 x 20 m. This seems hardly large enough for anything we might term a village, though it might once have extended out into what are now fields.

On balance, there were probably one or a few structures at both these localities in the Medieval and Ottoman periods. At SCY134 this would have included the predecessor of the current church of Ayios Mamas. If any actual houses existed, they are more likely to have been farmsteads or else the equivalent of the small groups of seasonal field houses in use elsewhere in the northern Troodos until the mid-20th century. Thus there is no surface archaeological evidence for the two villages rich in gold that local tradition describes.

The impressive series of broad check dams extending down the valley points to wealth and success of a different kind. Though not very large, this part of the valley is fertile, stable and easy to cultivate, and now supports intensive production of barley and olives; in striking contrast to the rocky, eroded valleys to the east and north. These fields were deliberately created by building check dams to trap the sediment that the stream carried down, thus harnessing the landscape’s own power not just to protect against erosion but to create arable land where previously there was none. Judging by the age of the olive trees and most of the pottery on these surfaces, the check dams were first constructed in the Medieval period, about the same time as the structures at Ayios Mamas and Ayia Irini. Perhaps the gold from the earth recalled by oral tradition should be seen as a metaphor for the fertile soil which human endeavour succeeded in winning from the landscape.