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Kissonerga-Skalia: An Early-Middle Bronze Age settlement in western Cyprus

The area surrounding Kissonerga village, near Paphos in western Cyprus, is extremely rich in prehistoric remains, primarily dating from the earliest Neolithic occupation of the island through the Chalcolithic period, investigated through survey and excavation since the 1970s by the University of Edinburgh's Lemba Archaeological Project (LAP) (Peltenburg et al. 1998, 2003; Philip 1983). The current project is the first time that a settlement dating to the Early Middle Cypriot Bronze Age (EC-MC, ca 2400-1650 BC) has been excavated at Kissonerga, or anywhere in the west of Cyprus.

Although some of the site was destroyed by levelling for agricultural purposes during the 1970s, Kissonerga-Skalia remains extremely important for understanding the Cypriot prehistoric Bronze Age. Excavations in other parts of the island (see Alambra-Mouttes, Marki-Alonia and Sotira-Kaminoudhia in the bibliography below) have revealed that EC-MC settlements shared many common features, such as architectural styles and technologies, but had pronounced regional differences in pottery styles (see Steel 2004 for an overview). The southwest has long been thought to be the home of a pottery style known as'Drab Polished ware' (Figure 1), which is poorly understood as only small amounts have been excavated at sites in other parts of the island. The 2007 season has already revealed quantities of this style and will enable us to build a framework for understanding this extremely well made pottery. The other characteristic feature of settlements of this period has been their small rural nature, located by arable inland valleys and often near copper sources. Kissonerga-Skalia therefore also stands out for its exceptional coastal location, only 300m from the sea.

During the preliminary season of excavation in August 2007 a series of test trenches were sunk in areas that had either been obviously truncated by the 1970s terracing or potentially protected by overburden from levelling operations to establish in which areas in situ architecture might be preserved. All trenches proved productive to some degree. Upper disturbed layers contained quantities of pottery, including EC-MC, Chalcolithic and Late Roman to Byzantine and it seems likely that Kissonerga-Skalia partially overlies the neighbouring Chalcolithic site of Kissonerga-Mosphilia (Peltenburg et al. 1998). In Trench D (Figure 2) stone footings of typical EC-MC dwellings were revealed. These would have formed the rectilinear foundations for a mudbrick superstructure. In Trench G (Figure 3) an unusually wide, slightly curving wall constructed of at least four courses of rubble and mud fill was partially exposed, which requires further excavation in future seasons to establish its chronology and extent. In Trench E, we found wall tumble and a smashed storage jar at a depth of c.1.7m beneath overburden. Trench B yielded part of a substantial built oven-like feature and underlying pit with collapsed plaster walls and ashy fill, overlying a second larger ashy pit, All these features require further exposure in future seasons before any conclusions on architectural forms can be drawn.

In addition to the preserved architecture, finds include beads, pendants and copper fragments. One complete bent copper needle (Figure 4) was found in the upper levels of the ashy fill in the lower pit in Trench B. We also have evidence of textile production in the form of spindle whorls and a loom weight, and numbers of chipped stone and ground stone tools, including agricultural types such as querns, and gaming stones. The site has also yielded evidence of faunal (cattle, deer, sheep/goat, pig) and marine (crab and shellfish) exploitation and well-preserved botanical remains (grape and lentil). Again Kissonerga-Skalia's coastal position may supply information on marine exploitation strategies not attested at the inland sites. In order to address some of these questions and fully expose architecture, excavation will continue in August 2008.

Figure captions:

Figure 1: Drab Polished ware juglet (P25).
Figure 2: Stone wall footings in Trench D.
Figure 3: Rubble wall in Trench G.
Figure 4: Copper needle (KS10) from Trench B.

Bibliography and further reading:

Coleman, J. E., J. A. Barlow, M. K. Mogelonsky and K. W. Schaar
1996 Alambra. A Middle Bronze Age Settlement in Cyprus. Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology CXVIII, Jonsered.

Crewe, L., P. Croft, L. Graham and A. McCarthy
2008 First preliminary report of excavations at Kissonerga-Skalia, 2007. Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus (in press).

Frankel, D. and J.M. Webb
2006 Marki-Alonia. An Early and Middle Bronze Age Settlement in Cyprus. Excavations 1995-2000. Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology CXXIII:2, Sävedalen.

Peltenburg, E. et al.
1998a Excavations at Kissonerga-Mosphilia 1979-1992. Lemba Archaeological Project II.1A. Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology LXX:2 (Jonsered).

1998b Excavations at Kissonerga-Mosphilia 1979-1992. Lemba Archaeological Project II.1B. (University of Edinburgh). Available online at http://www.arcl.ed.ac.uk/arch/publications/cyprus/kissonerga/dir.htm

2003 The Colonisation and Settlement of Cyprus. Investigations at Kissonerga-Mylouthkia 1976-1996. Lemba Archaeological Project Volume III.1. Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology LXX:4, Sävedalen.

Philip, G.
1983"Kissonerga-Skalia ceramics" in Peltenburg, E.J. and project members "The Prehistory of West Cyprus: Ktima Lowlands investigations 1979-1982" Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, 9-55.

Steel, L.
2004. Cyprus Before History. From the Earliest Settlers to the End of the Bronze Age. Duckworth, London.

Swiny, S., G. Rapp and E. Herscher (eds.)
2003 Sotira Kaminoudhia. An Early Bronze Age Site in Cyprus. Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute Monograph Series, Volume 4. ASOR, Boston, MA.