Monday, March 31, 2014

Choirokoitia Archaeological Site

The Choirokoitia Archaeological Site (also known as the Khirokitia Neolithic Archaeological Settlement) is located near the modern village of Choirokoitia in the Maroni Valley, within the Larnaca district of Cyprus.

This site is one of the oldest settlements in Cyprus.  Also, it's considered one of the best preserved settlements from this time period throughout Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean.

According to a sign at the site, "The first inhabitants arrived at Choirokoitia 9,000 years ago and settled on this hill that overlooks a tributary of the river Maroni.  Initially the settlement occupied only a part of the hill and was protected naturally by the escarpment and artificially by the construction of a defensive wall.  The settlement later spread beyond these boundaries to the western part of the hill."

Choirokoitia was discovered in 1934 by Porphyrios Dikaios on behalf of the Cypriot Department of Antiquities.  In 1976, the excavation of the area proceeded with Alain Le Brun.
According to another sign at the site, "The inhabitants of Choirokoitia lived in circular structures of various sizes.  Only the lower stone-built part of the walls is preserved.  As was attested by the excavations, the house is defined by a concentration of such structures around a small yard....  The deceased were buried in pits cut into the floors of the habitation units.  They were often accompanied by objects of everyday life, such as stone vessels and necklaces."

From history, it's evident that the people of these area vanished suddenly without an adequate explanation when Choirokoitia was abandoned.

Today, there are two main areas for visitors to explore, including the excavation site and the reconstructed huts.

There are numerous steps leading to the top of the excavation site, which is primary location for the ancient ruins of Choirokoitia. 

Each house was actually a small compound with several buildings designed in a circular area around an open space, which served as an inner courtyard.  The population of Choirokoitia has been estimated to around 300 people.

According to a sign at the site, "The basic architectural unit is a circular structure with a flat roof.  The materials used are stone-blocks of light-colored limestone collected from the surrounding area and dark-colored stones from the river-bed, pisé and sun-dried mudbricks.  A habitation unit or house may be defined as a compound of several of these units around an unroofed space."

The reconstruction area includes five model dwellings, which were built in the Neolithic style with the same methods and materials as the ancient ruins.

According to another sign at the site, "In the course of its efforts for the best protection of the site and in order to facilitate its interpretation for the visitors, the Department of Antiquities proceeded to reconstruct five circular units and part of the enclosure wall, including one of its entrances.  These are identical copies of the original structures....  One of the circular structures was left semi-finished in order to show the various stages of its construction and the materials employed for this purpose: stones, mudbricks, wood, and reeds."

In December 1998, the Choirokoitia Archaeological Site was included in the list for UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites, which originated in 1972.  Choirokoitia was the third World Heritage listing for Cyprus.

According to this website, "Choirokoitia was included in the list for three basic reasons: (1) It is the most important archaeological site of the Neolithic period that reflects the expansion, (2) the permanent habitation of settlements, and (3) the role of Cyprus in the spreading of the Neolithic civilization from the eastern Mediterranean to the West."

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Choirokoitia is worth exploring, by both visitors and local residents, especially since the Choirokoitia Archaeological Site includes ancient ruins at the excavation site, as well as the nearby reconstructed huts.

Site: Choirokoitia Archaeological Site. 

Category: Archaeological Site. 

Location: About 1.5 km from the main highway and near Choirokoitia Village, within the Larnaca district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: 24322710. 

Operating Hours: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM on Monday to Sunday, during winter months.  8:30 AM to 7:30 PM on Monday to Sunday, during summer months.

Entrance Fee: €2,50. 

Date of Visit: 2010.

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