(Dir.: Dr. P. Flourentzos and Dr. A. Ammerman)
The Ministry of Communication and Works, Department of Antiquities announces that the underwater survey conducted during the last two weeks at the early archaeological site of Aspros in the Akamas has resulted the discovery of chipped stone tools and ground stone implements in several submerged areas in front of the site, which goes back to the time before 10,000. The new archaeological remains now show that the pre-Neolithic site was originally several times larger than what is observed on land today. The richest area documented by the survey occurs at a depth of 10 meters in the water and in a position100 meter from the present coastline. This is the first time that archaeological material of such an early date (that is, material going back to the time before the Aceramic Neolithic period on the island, which starts around 8,200 cal B.C.) has been recovered in a submerged context off the coast of Cyprus. This represents a major breakthrough in terms of the study of the earliest archaeology of Cyprus and the origins of seafaring in the Mediterranean world.
Prior to 2004, very little was known about pre-Neolithic sites on the island. The discovery in 2004 of two new early sites, Aspros and Nissi Beach, on coastal formations of aeolianite, began to throw completely new light on the earliest archaeological sites on Cyprus (dating back to 10,500 to 12,500 years ago), when the island was first frequented by seafaring foragers in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the time of the climatic cold snap known as the Younger Dryas (12,800 to 11,600 years ago or 10,800 to 9,600 B.C.), sea level was some 60 to 70 meters lower than it is today. Whole areas of the coast have been submerged by the transgression that occurred at the end of the last ice age and extended into the Holocene (the last 10,000 years when warmer climatic conditions obtained). In short, what we observe on land in terms of the archaeological record when it comes to early sites such as Aspros and Nissi Beach is only the tip of the iceberg. The challenge, of course, is how to find the small chipped stone tools that are resting on the submerged land surface. In fact, no one had ever tried to do this before on Cyprus. We have now shown how this can be done. The implication is that early sites such as Aspros and Nissi Beach were both much larger and much richer than we have previously thought.
In the case of Aspros, the site now extends for a length of more than 250 meters all along the top of the cliff on the north side of the Aspros River. The investigation of the pre-Neolithic site of Aspros is directed jointly by Albert J. Ammerman, the O’Connor Professor of the Humanities at Colgate University (Hamilton, New York), and Pavlos Flourentzos, the Director of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus. The underwater survey was carried out by a team of nine divers from the United States and Cyprus. The dive master of the project was Dr. Tim Turnbull of New York City. The lead archaeologist on the dives was Duncan Howitt Marshall. The lithics have been examined by Carole McCartney.