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18 January 2013
Intact Neolithic floor surface uncovered in Cyprus

A floor surface from the Neolithic era has been uncovered at the Ayia Varvara-Asprokremmos site in Cyprus. The floor was 'exposed for the first time in 10,000 years,' according to Carole McCartney, who leads a team of researchers from the University of Cyprus, Cornell University, and the University of Toronto. The new finds during the latest excavations had redefined the understanding of the kind of human occupation that existed at the Neolithic site in the Nicosia district, which has been radio-carbon dated to between c. 8,800-8,600 BCE.
     The excavations took place in November 2012 and were run by Dr Carole McCartney and the floor exhibited a dished form, raised above the central area providing a rough bench that ran along the circumference of the interior wall. The floor was made of trampled mud, refreshed by erosional washed sediments that appear to have collected during short term (perhaps seasonal) abandonment events. "As seen in the northern side of the feature, ash heaps and stone tools were stratified in a sequence of repeated use events," the department said.  
     The presence of buried artefacts (usable, but abandoned) and evidence of erosional episodes indicated the punctuated character of the structure's occupation, while the nature of the artefacts demonstrated the domestic character of the building, it added.
Constructional features illustrated the significant degree of investment given to the building, including the deeply dished form of the building dug into bedrock and a 10-15 cm thick wall lining. The latter exhibited significant evidence of burning and was likely constructed of an organic super-structure of branches cemented in place by mud plaster.
     The finds suggest a decline in the investment applied to the construction of shelters utilised at the site, and a shift towards a more temporary architectural form during later phases of occupation. A large carefully engraved teardrop-shaped picrolite pendant, representing a more developed form of ornament than those recovered previously, was also recovered. Renewed excavation in another area of the site uncovered a unique arrangement of chalk slabs encircling a large hearth-like setting of burnt stone. The site may have been used for the tanning of animal, and specifically pig, skins as multi-coloured pigments, including red, yellow, orange, purple and grey ochre as well as bright green, terra verde, were found.

Edited from Cyprus Mail (10 January 2013)

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