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3 March 2008
Ancient toy or whistle found in Cyprus

A small masterpiece of coroplastic Early Bronze Age Cyprus (3500- 2000 BCE), believed to be a water whistle or a toy, was found during the excavations at Pyrgos/Mavrorachi, in Limassol and restored by an Italian archaeological mission led by Maria Rosaria Belgiorno. "This is an askos, representing a load of two panniers, with its mane knotted in five bobs and a statuette of a naked child riding in the middle of the shoulder," Belgiorno said. Donkeys loaded with baskets of fruit and vegetables are one of the most common images of the Mediterranean, she explained.
     "What is extraordinary is that this vase was found in a settlement and not a tomb," Belgiorno said. She explained that the askos has two openings, one in front corresponding to the mouth of the equine and a small cylindrical spout on the back, next to the handle.
"Considering the small size of these openings, it is possible that the askos was a water whistle of a toy and not a special container for some substance," Belgiorno said.
     The most famous coroplastic vases and models of the Early-Middle Bronze Age from tombs in Cyprus lead to the conclusion that these special pots were made only for funerary purposes, she said. "But Pyrgos findings are proof that beautiful objects were part of everyday life in Early Bronze Age Cyprus. Many vessels found in fragments beneath the ruins of the building destroyed by the earthquake of 1850 BCE, have no comparison with the precious ceramics from the contemporary tombs of the site," she said.
     Last year, the Italian archaeological team, directed by Belgiorno, carried out its ninth season of excavations at the Early Bronze Age industrial site of Pyrgos/Mavrorachi. The work of the mission focused on the western wing of a building destroyed by an earthquake around 1850 BCE, in order to locate the origin of a large room positioned on the western side of an olive press. A pebble stone entrance to the room from the south has been unearthed. And in addition to the western side of the room, the excavations uncovered an extension of the industrial complex, which like most of the rooms of the palace, was intended for metallurgical activities. Nearby, a heavy pestle of andesite, ready for crushing of minerals, was found along with a large number of crucibles and small bronze pieces. Belgiorno said a pithos jar for olive oil, positioned 2m away from the furnace, confirms the use of olive oil as fuel for metallurgy at Pyrgos.
     An unexpected finding was a workplace for working copper, equipped with a bench and large basin. "The structures were built with stone blocks and stones. Three ovens, a large pithos for olive oil, 18 vases, stone tools and hammers, bronze objects and a clay mould for the axes show the metallurgical activities of the place, " she said. In particular, the fragmented clay mould for the head axe, when looking at its size and sha is very similar to that of the third millennium found at Goltepe in Anatolia. "This represents a special metallurgical interconnection between the Middle East and Cyprus, during the Early Bronze Age," she said.

Source: The Cyprus Weekly (1 March 2008)

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