Back to Akrotiri - Early Aceramic page Move on to Ceramic Neolithic page


Late Aceramic Neolithic period (Khirokitia culture) - 7,000 - 5,000 BC

Exhibition: Bryn Mawr Collections has one object from this time period: S-396

Description: Pointed lithic blade

Date: Late Aceramic Neolithic period (7000-5000 BC)

Dimensions: GL. 5.4 cm; GW. 2.4 cm; TH. 1.0 cm

Provenience: Khirokitia


Period overview: Until the relatively recent discoveries of the Akrotiri and the Early Aceramic Neolithic phases, the Aceramic Neolithic culture known as the Khirokitia culture was thought to be the earliest human settlement on Cyprus from 7,000 to 5,000 BC. As early archaeologists did not detect a precursor to the Khirokitia culture, many assumed that the society arrived fully developed on Cyprus. New evidence for an earlier Aceramic period (PPNB) now suggests internal development throughout the two Aceramic periods on the island. Although Early Aceramic Cyprus had numerous similarities with PPNB Levantine settlements, Late Aceramic Cyprus seems to have lagged behind its counterpart societies on the mainland to the east. While the Levantine settlements used pottery, cattle and rectangular housing between 7,000-5,000 BC, the Khirokitian culture lacked pottery, cattle and constructed circular housing. Furthermore, signs of outside relations are non-existent on the island during this period.

There are a number of Late Aceramic Neolithic sites throughout the island. Click here for a map that shows the distribution of Khirokitian sites. The two most important sites from this period are Khirokitia (site plan to the right) and Kalavasos-Tenta (site plan below right), however other Aceramic sites are found at Cape Andreas, Cape Greco, Troulli and Ayis Yiorkis. There is a lack of settlement in the west or the northwest during this period. (Click here for photos of Khirokitia and Kalavasos-Tenta taken by author.)

Despite it lack of external contact, Late Aceramic Cyprus was a well-structured society. Strategic locations were usually chosen in proximity to rivers and atop of small hills for defensive purposes. Both Khirokitia and Kalavasos-Tenta neighbor rivers and are located on elevated positions. Khirokitia has a massive wall that divides the settlement in half. Originally, this wall was thought to be a street, however it is now recognized as a defensive wall. Houses on both sides of the wall demonstrate that the site expanded over time. Such a massive wall shows communal organization in working towards a common goal. The social organization of the settlement is unclear. There are some structures significantly larger than others but it is difficult to assess social stratification. The ideal household unit consisted of circular units around an open space. Despite the lack of cattle at this time on the island, fallow deer, sheep, goats and pigs formed a varied diet. Another characteristic of this period are the burials. Burials occurred in the houses underneath the floors and cranial deformation was commonly practiced. There are only limited suggestions of religion in the Aceramic Neolithic, possibly best represented by a wall painting of a figure at Kalavasos-Tenta.

 

Below: Site plan of Khirokitia. Notice the massive wall( in red) that divides the settlement of circular houses.

Picture taken at site by Nicholas Blackwell.

Below: Site plan of Kalavasos-Tenta.

Picture from: Todd 2001, 96.

Khirokitia: reconstruction of houses at site.

Kalavasos-Tenta: Artistic reconstruction.

Khirokitia: View of site

Kalavasos-Tenta: View of site

 

Below: Map showing the earliest sites on Cyprus including Khirokitian sites (represented by diamonds).

Map from: Swiny, S. (Ed) 2001. The Earliest Prehistory of Cyprus: From Colonization to Exploitation. pg. xiv.

References

1. Le Brun, A. 2001. "At the Other End of the Sequence: The Cypriot Aceramic Neolithic as seen from Khirokitia," in The Earliest Prehistory of Cyprus: From Colonization to Exploitation. Ed. S. Swiny. CAARI Monograph Series, Volume 2. Boston, MA: American School of Oriental Research, 109-118.

2. Todd, I. 2001. "Kalavasos Tenta Revisted," in The Earliest Prehistory of Cyprus: From Colonization to Exploitation. Ed. S. Swiny. CAARI Monograph Series, Volume 2. Boston, MA: American School of Oriental Research, 95-107.

Back to Akrotiri - Early Aceramic page Move on to Ceramic Neolithic page