The Kalavasos Prehistoric Project, Cyprus
Since 2002 excavations have been underway at two prehistoric sites in the Vasilikos Valley in Cyprus, Kalavasos Kokkinoyia and Kalavasos Pamboules.
Excavations are directed by Dr Joanne Clarke, University of East Anglia.
Kokkinoyia and Pamboules were excavated by Porphyrios Dikaios in the 1940s under the auspices of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus. Brief reports of the excavations were published in the Swedish Cyprus Expedition volumes (Dikaios and Stewart 1962). Because Dikaios’ excavations were limited and because both sites are atypical due to the predominance of underground features, it was important to renew excavations in order to understand aspects of structure, layout and function of the sites. Kokkinoyia dates to the Late Neolithic period (4500-3900 BC) while Pamboules spans both the Late Neolithic and the Chalcolithic periods (4500-2300 BC). Excavations at both sites are crucial for understanding these under-reseasrched periods in Cypriot prehistory.
Aims of the renewed excavations are:
- • To determine whether Kokkioyia and Pamboules are settlements
• To establish the relationship between the two sites
• To understand the climatic and environmental conditions in which people were living at Kokkinoyia and Pamboules
• To examine how subterranean features related to standard above ground architecture
• To determine the social and economic strategies.
Kalavasos-Pamboules is a continuously occupied multi-period Late Neolithic to Late Chalcolithic site located c. 500 m from the underground site, Kokkinoyia. It is one of only two sites on Cyprus that have evidence of occupation spanning more than 2000 years from c.4500 BC to c.2350 BC. Occupation at Pamboules coincides with a period of major climatic disruption, recorded in eastern Mediterranean environmental proxies, extending over the whole of the 4th millennium BC (Bar-Matthews and Ayalon 2011; Roberts et al. 2011). Cyprus is an excellent case study for human/environmental interactions because of its particular hydrology and topography that make it a sensitive barometer for human responses to changes in temperature and rainfall. Cyprus does not classify as a typical marginal environment – i.e., one that receives too little rainfall to sustain uninterrupted rain-fed agriculture (<300 mm per year) – but during times of drought it acts like a marginal environment in that consecutive years of low rainfall will have a disproportionately adverse effect on crops and vegetation. This is because Cyprus has no standing bodies of water and the rain-fed rivers that flow both north and south from the Troodos and Kyrenia Mountains are deeply down cut and water is quickly and violently dispersed. Cyprus also has no accessible deep aquifers that can sustain agriculture in the event of drought. Thus, more than a couple years of low rainfall in the past (as today) would have led to a marked reduction in the availability of water, a decline in the variety and density of vegetation, and an unequal degree of drying on the central and coastal plains in contrast with the mountainous regions. The Vasilikos Valley was extensively occupied during the early prehistoric period but survey of the entire valley has demonstrated that the nature of settlement changed markedly at the beginning of the 4th millennium BC, from numerous small occupations in the lower foothills of the Troodos Mountains and on the coastal plain, to an aggregation of people at the single large coastal plain settlement, Pamboules, by c.3500 BC (Clarke forthcoming). Pamboules is one of the largest Neolithic/Chalcolithic sites on the island with documented occupation over the entire period, from the Ceramic Neolithic to the Late Chalcolithic period. The only other site that can boast such longevity is Kissonerga-Mosphilia, which has been extensively excavated over the last 30 years. Survey and limited excavation at Pamboules has demonstrated that there are typological differences in architecture and in the pottery between the two sites. It is not yet known whether these are chronological or regional but work at Pamboules will provide comparative data for Mosphila and as such broaden our understanding of the development of early complex society on the island.
In recent years excavations at Kokkinoyia have uncovered an impressive “chamber and tunnel complex” and a series of individual and inter-joining chambers. The purpose of these underground features remains enigmatic. Many were sealed up following primary use, or were re-used for tasks such as the processing of ochre or storage of objects; their primary use and why they were actually dug cannot be ascertained as most were completely empty. In addition to the chamber and tunnel complex and the individual chambers, excavations uncovered a single circular structure, partly sunk into the bedrock, with a central post hole, fire pit and a series of crushed limestone floors. This structure appears to have been associated with at least some of the underground chambers but clearly had a different use. Finally, Kokkinoyia was used as a burial place. At least six individuals were interred in pits and chambers around the structure. In one shallow pit was found the fully articulated bones of a young female and the long bones of a second individual. In another pit were three fully articulated skeletons, one on top of the other, and in a chamber-like feature were the stacked bones of another individual. Kokkinoyia is an unusual site in that most of the activity took place underground. Sites of this nature are known of in both Cyprus and farther afield, in southern Israel. Further research will elucidate whether people chose to live underground, or were undertaking non-domestic activities in these underground chambers and tunnels.
A field season at Pamboules is planned over four weeks during December 2015 / January 2016. Further details will be available shortly.