None Neolithic Cyprus: 9000 -3800 BC

Neolithic Cyprus

Cyprus is on the techtonic plate boundary between Africa and Europe, and was upthrust from the sea bed about 12 million years ago. Most of the superficial rocks are limestone, from the sea bed, but the modest size Troodos mountains, ringed by copper-bearing pillow lavas, were originally part of the earth’s mantle  For most of its history the island was covered in forest and was sparsely inhabited.

Human settlement came relatively late. Burnt bones of birds, fish and pigmy hippopotomi, and later tools, have been found by Acrotiri coastal caves, spanning from 10800 to 9800 BC.  However these people may have been visitors and the oldest known Cypriot settlements were Neolithic I, from c. 8700 – 6000 BC. Society seems to have been broadly egalitarian. Small, stone images sometimes combining phallic and female elements suggest a magical concern with fertility. They had round, mud brick houses with stone foundations and burnt lime floors and stone pots and tools, since they had not discovered the art of  making ceramics. They also dug the oldest known water wells in the world. There were already pigs and birds, but they introduced dogs, sheep, and ibex (goats) to Cyprus and possibly a few cattle, which remained wild and later died out. They also introduced and hunted fallow deer and boars and grew cereals and pulses. Average age at death was about 34. Graves are found under the floors of houses, one from 7500BC included the owner’s cat (the oldest known domestic cat: well before the Egyptians). Weaving is attested by the presence of spindlewhorls and garments were probably of wool. They were fastened with bone pins, and sewn with needles. Personal ornament is represented by stone beads, pendants and bracelets; and necklaces of dentalia shells, carnelian and greyish-green pikrite. Bone was used for handles of stone tools, for awls, pins and needles. Maces of polished stone were used as weapons.

Their most famous site is Choirokoitia (Khirokitia), a walled village of c.60 excavated houses, (where 3 houses have been reconstructed) though there may have been many more. Through most of the Neolithic period Cyprus remained relatively isolated, though there has been some imported obsidian and other imported materials found.  

   There is a gap in the record, and then from 5500 – 3500 BC there was a Ceramic, Neolithic II society across the island, probably brought by new settlers from Syria and Anatolia. Like the earlier settlers they lived by farming and herding. Their pottery was monochrome with combed decoration. In the final phase there was also a painted red on white ware. Burials outside the settlement became the norm. Their settlements, such as Sotira (c.50 thin-walled rectangular houses with rounded corners) were devastated by earthquakes c. 3800 BC