(Dir.: Prof. Alan H. Simmons)
The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Communications and Works, announces the completion of the 2014 excavation season at the early Neolithic site of Kretou Marottou-Ais Yiorkis by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), under the direction of Dr. Alan H. Simmons. The excavations were funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.
The site of Kretou Marottou-Ais Yiorkis dates to the Cypriot Pre Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) with an occupation centered around 7,800 cal. BC. It is located in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, rather than near the coast, a more common Neolithic pattern. The site contains many unique features, including circular plastered platforms, a huge chipped stone assemblage, and well-preserved paleoeconomic data, including cattle, which previously had not been documented on Cyprus until the Bronze Age.
During the 2014 season, 117 square meters were excavated. The season yielded a huge amount of chipped stone artifacts (approximately 37,000), now nearing a total of 300,000 pieces including several carved picrolite ornaments. In addition, a human burial was excavated which constitutes one of the earliest documented formal human burials found on Cyprus to date.
The burial, excavated by Drs. Xenia-Paula Kyriakou and Paul Croft, was found in a tightly flexed position, in a grave cut into a larger, somewhat earlier pit. It consists of an adult individual, probably a male, and appears to be primary. The grave fill was especially rich in stones, animal bones and chipped stone, compared with the fill of the larger pit. At this point, there is no evidence for direct grave goods, although a broken obsidian blade was found in the pelvis area. A suite of analytical procedures is planned on the remains, which will include radiocarbon dating and isotopic and other analyses directed towards determining diet and origin, and that also might provide information on human and animal migrations and movements.
Cypro-PPNB sites recorded on Cyprus have shown that the island was in early and consistent contact with the mainland Neolithic, and indicate that Cyprus was colonised far earlier than previously believed. Human remains, however, have been elusive at all early Neolithic sites, thus a formal burial is very significant. Previously, parts of an infant burial were recovered at Kretou Marottou-Ais Yiorkis, and elements representing several individuals were recovered from Neolithic wells at Kissonerga-Mylouthkia. At Perekklisha-Shillourokambos, which appears to be the largest Cypro-PPNB site yet known, numerous human remains were recovered in a large pit, and a flexed individual adjacent to a cat burial also was documented at that site. These may be somewhat more recent than the Kretou Marottou-Ais Yiorkis burial, but this remains to be determined pending the outcome of radiocarbon dating.
The faunal assemblage at the site is huge, with a predominance of deer, followed by pig. Several addition cattle bones were also recovered in 2014. In the structure area the partial remains of two other structures were revealed, placing the total at six.
Kretou Marottou-Ais Yiorkis continues to be an important site for better understanding the early colonization of Cyprus. It is especially significant due to its rare upland location, its unique architecture and its well-preserved paleoeconomic data.