|19 December 2005
Shedding light on dark age of Cyprus archaeology
A bracelet and a sickle made of stone are among recent archaeological finds that may shed light on the dark age of Cypriot archaeology between the earliest evidence of human presence on the island at 10,000 BCE and the appearance of the first villages from around 8,200 BCE.
An archaeological survey focusing on the elucidation of the Early Neolithic Period was this year undertaken by the Universities of Cyprus and Toronto with promising results. The project investigated lithic scatter sites located between the villages of Lymbia and Agrokipia and established that hunters and food gatherers covered long distances in search of subsistence.
In all, 11 such sites as well as 14 chert sources were investigated, yielding 11,000 chipped stone and ground artifacts.
The project has identified a handful of promising very early sites with unique concentrations of stone fragments clearly distinct from chipped and ground stone industries documented at known Aceramic Neolithic sites. Three major chert – flint - quarries exploited in prehistory were also studied, providing the first evidence of early stone tool manufacture centres on the island. The investigation of such stone tool quarries in relation to habitation/activity sites has begun to provide detailed knowledge of how early hunter-gatherers may have foraged across the Cypriot landscape.
A fragment of a stone bracelet made of picrolite was discovered at Politico 20km south of Nicosia on a small hill top site where foragers were apparently engaged in cutting wild cereals, judging from the presence also of the remains of a stone sickle made of non-local stone. The picrolite, a semi-precious stone is found only in the Kouris river near Limassol, while the stone sickle was probably manufactured using stone from the Alambra area some 15 km distant.
Other evidence showing the apparently temporary nature of the sites investigated includes the lack of visible stone architecure. Significant numbers of stone grounding tools and a number of stone axes at these sites suggests that the makers of these tools were foragers exploiting a wide variety of wild plant and animal resources prior to the advent of farming on the island, around 8,200 as currently understood. A find of some note was the presence of a number of complete and broken arrowheads in the chipped stone collection of Ayia Varvara – Asprokremmos that are currently unique on the island. They demonstrate a focus on hunting as an element of the subsistence stragedy at this site and provide new evidence connections with the Middle East mainland during the remote past.
Perhaps most exciting is the information that his new evidence provides for the investigation into the origins of farming. Already it is known that agriculture began very early on the island in relation to the traditional cradles of early farming in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. By documenting evidence of early hunter-gatherers prior to this advent, experts will begin to understand how and why agriculure began on the island and the role Cyprus had to play in the Neolithic Revolution across the rest of the Near East.
Source: Cyprus Weekly (18 December 2005)
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