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Submission of the excavation records of the archaeological investigations at Agios Epiktitos Vrysi
21/10/2011

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Address of the Director of the Department of Antiquities Dr. Maria Hadjicosti
on the occasion of
the submission of the excavation records of the
archaeological investigation at Agios Epiktitos Vrysi

It is with great pleasure that the Department of Antiquities accepts from Professor Edgar Peltenburg the excavation records of the archaeological investigation he conducted in 1973 at Agios Epiktitos, Kerynia, as the head of a British archaeological mission. Professor Peltenburg’s gesture was preceded a few months ago by the submission of the excavation records of the French mission that conducted excavations at the Neolithic site of Choirokoitia.

The Department of Antiquities, as the state authority responsible for the management of the country’s archaeological heritage, has the authority to issue excavation permits. Since 1960, the Department of Antiquities has facilitated foreign archaeological missions to excavate and contribute to the development of Cypriot Archaeology. This policy helped to promote Cypriot Archaeology as an integral part of the European civilization studies.

Professor Peltenburg excavated in 1973 a Chalcolithic settlement at the locality Vrysi of Agios Epiktitos. Since 1974, he has been assigned by the Department of Antiquities the archaeological investigation of three Chalcolithic sites in the Paphos district, Lempa, Kissonerga and Souskiou. His work in all these sites has been a major contribution to Cypriot prehistoric archaeology. Today, the submission by Professor Peltenburg of the excavation records of his investigations at Agios Epiktitos contributes to the fulfillment of the aim that the Department of Antiquities has set to assemble all the records of the scientific excavations conducted in Cyprus and present them to all students of Cypriot archaeology. Moreover, the submission of the records of this particular excavation is of great importance, as they substantiate the scientific results of the excavation of a site that is still under Turkish occupation.



Address of Prof. Edgar Peltenburg on the occasion of
the submission of thearchaeological investigation at Agios Epiktitos Vrysi, 1969-1973

In 1969 the Department of Antiquities, under the directorship of Dr Vassos Karageorghis, issued a Licence for the University of Birmingham, England, to undertake excavations at the Neolithic village of Agios Epiktetos-Vrysi. The village is located in the Kyrenia District some 10 km East of Kyrenia where over 6000 year ago people chose to live on a coastal headland between two beaches. The archaeological excavations of this community were conducted each summer from 1969 to 1973. A team was in place to start the next season in 1974 but it was overtaken by the tragic invasion of that summer, and members had to take shelter in a house in Kyrenia during the Turkish bombing. Since that dark time it has not been possible to resume investigations, the once splendid walls of the Neolithic settlement have become ruinous and we are uncertain about the condition and exact location of the many discoveries which were handed in to Mr. Ianni Kleanthous, custodian of Kyrenia Castle, who kindly stored them in the Crusader Tower.
To Mr Kleanthous, and to many others connected with these scientific researches, the team owes a debt of gratititude: to Kyriakos Nicolaou, former Director of the Cyprus Museum, for dealing so successfully with legal issues, to Mr. Kokkinos and all the villagers of Agios Epiktetos for warm support and hospitality, and to the numerous labourers from the village as well as all the team members, especially Mr. Peter Gelling of the University of Birmingham, Professor Ian Todd, assistant director and finds photographer 1972-73, Alison South, finds registrar, Nicolas Stanley Price and Paul Halstead. Dr. Sophocles Hadjisavvas, former Director of the Department of Antiquities, deserves particular credit for recently attempting to consolidate the remains and to protect them from neglect or worse, development, in the framework of an inter-communal programme.
The Neolithic village flourished for half a millennium, from 4500 to 4000 B.C. It is a gem of information regarding the heritage of Cyprus. The reason why it is so precious is because the Neolithic villagers had the unusual custom of deliberately burying many of their possessions inside their houses with when they needed to build new ones. Normally, archaeologists are not so fortunate because people clear out their belongings when they move house, but this Neolithic custom means that Agios Epiktetos-Vrysi contains a treasure trove of information, unique for the whole Mediterranean region in Antiquity, and not just Cyprus.
The one-room houses were located on either side of narrow alleyways with central drains. Entrances were through a single doorway and in some cases the wooden doorframes were still in place. Each was equipped with a raised fireplace beside a stone bench and seats, sometimes with the stone used to grind barley and wheat from the nearby fields still resting between the seats, ready to be used again. In one corner were the wonderfully preserved remains of woven baskets and mats, in others the stored axes, adzes and other tools of the household. The inhabitants of one house specialised in making bone beads, of another in creating stone tools from cherts gathered from the adjacent beach. In other words, we have an extraordinarily vivid picture of the daily routines of a community in action, such as is seldom preserved for us. This makes Agios Epiktetos-Vrysi a place of special scientific interest worthy of world heritage status.
It is a pleasure and a duty to hand over to the proper authorities, the Department of Antiquities, all the systematic field records of these brutally curtailed excavations. Archaeologists are usually able to publish only a small percent of their discoveries, so this handover provides future researchers and all who are interested with a wealth of information in a complete archive. Hopefully it will become part of an easily accessed, National Monuments Digital Record of Cyprus. It includes over 1000 photos and drawings of unpublished objects, plans and sections, the last graphically demonstrating the development of a society in up to 7 metres depth of one house on top of another. Of course, this archive has additional value since the site and the discoveries sadly lie beyond the control of the Department of Antiquities. The archive has already been used by Interpol to bring to justice those who illegally took stored objects from the excavations to sell abroad. Agios Epiktetos-Vrysi is a national treasure, it is a prize possession of the heritage of Cyprus, and so I welcome this opportunity to help inform and preserve that heritage by submitting the records of discovery to the government of Cyprus. Let me conclude by thanking Dr. Maria Hadjiocosti, Director of the Department of Antiquities, and her colleagues for their patience and guidance. I wish them well in safeguarding and disseminating an indispensible bank of information for present and future generations of the people of Cyprus and the international community.





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