village (34°46′ N, 33°18′ E) situated close to the southern coast of Cyprus, halfway between Limassol and Larnaca. The village area has been occupied since the Neolithic period (c. 4500 BCE), but its ancient name is unknown. Brief excavations at Tenta, south of Kalavasos, by Porphyrios Dikaios in 1947 under the auspices of the Cypriot Department of Antiquities revealed the presence of an Aceramic Neolithic settlement, then dated to 5800 BCE. Since 1976 the Vasilikos valley, centered on Kalavasos, has been the scene of multidisciplinary fieldwork designed to elucidate the sequence of occupation and nature of life in the valley from the earliest Neolithic until medieval times, some nine thousand years. Excavations have been undertaken at four sites, in conjunction with a field survey designed to recover information on the pattern of ancient settlement.
The Aceramic Neolithic village of Tenta, now dated to the seventh millennium, represents the earliest excavated settlement in the valley. Located on a small hill 2.3 km (1.4 mi.) south-southeast of Kalavasos, it consists of a cluster of curvilinear stone and mud-brick domestic buildings (see figure 1), surrounded by an outer settlement wall with a ditch cut in the limestone outside it. The reason for these defensive features and the origin and circumstances of the initial settlers are unknown. The population was small, perhaps fifty people. The dead were buried under house floors and in open areas outside. Stone was used for the manufacture of sophisticated vessels, domestic equipment, and items of personal adornment. Domesticated plants (emmer and einkorn wheat, barley, and lentils) and animals (sheep, goat, and pig) were known to the inhabitants, and fallow deer were hunted. Following the end of the Aceramic Neolithic, the site was reoccupied (c. 4500 BCE) after a considerable gap, but the remains are insubstantial.
The succeeding Early Chalcolithic period (c. 3500 BCE) is represented by the excavated site of Ayious, on the east side of the valley, opposite Tenta. No standing architectural remains were identified, only pits of various types, including several large ones connected by subterranean tunnels. Di-kaios located similar pits at nearby Pamboules (site B) in 1947, which he interpreted as pit dwellings. It seems likely that the pits are the extant remains of a settlement that consisted mainly of lightly built structures. Finely painted pottery, ceramic figurine fragments, and domestic stone tools were found within the pits.
The later Chalcolithic period in the valley is known only from scattered surface finds of pottery at several sites. The nature of the succeeding Early Bronze Age remains to be established, but the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1950–1650 BCE) is well represented by numerous excavated subterranean chamber tombs within the confines of the village, especially in the area of the church and mosque. Large numbers of fine pottery vessels, bronze tools and weapons, and stone and faience beads were deposited with the dead. Excavation of a contemporary settlement has not yet been undertaken in the valley, but the field survey attested dense occupation of the Kalavasos region in the early second millennium BCE.
While there may have been a reduction in the density of settlement in the early Late Bronze Age, the large, town-sized settlement of Ayios Dhimitrios south of Tenta is indicative of the urban character of life in the thirteenth century BCE. The site occupies 11.5 ha (28.4 acres) of gently sloping ground overlooking an easy crossing of the Vasilikos River from its western side. The location is strategic because it also lies at the junction of two major routes—east–west along the southern coastal region of the island, and north–south from the copper mines north of Kalavasos down to the coast. In view of the known importance of copper in the LB economy of Cyprus, it can scarcely be doubted that the Kalavasos mining region was of considerable significance for its copper deposits at the time Ayios Dhimitrios was occupied. The field survey did not prove beyond doubt the LB utilization of the Kalavasos mining area, but Bronze Age remains have been found within 500 m of the mining zone.
Initial excavations were undertaken at Ayios Dhimitrios within the line of the Nicosia–Limassol highway that has obliterated the settlement's central sector. Rectilinear structures (100–600 sq m in area) were found, fronting onto long, straight streets. Subsequent excavations at the north end of the site revealed a palatial complex, called building X. The plan of this square structure (30.5 m across) is tripartite around a central courtyard (see figure 2). Extensive use of finely cut, large stone blocks was made in the outer walls, and the building probably had an upper story. The most impressive architectural feature is a rectangular hall, with a central row of stone pillars to support the roof, used for storing olive oil (and perhaps other commodities) in rows of very large storage jars (pithoi). The fifty pithoi in the main hall had an estimated capacity of 33,500 liters (see below). The building's character is clearly public rather than private; an administrative purpose may be supported by the discovery within and adjacent to it of a number of small clay cylinders with signs inscribed in the Cypro-Minoan script, indicating a literate clientele.
Immediately west of building X, excavation revealed parts of another building (XI) in which olive oil was probably manufactured. A very large stone tank was set into the floor of one room, and gas chromatography analyses of its interior face suggested that it had contained olive oil, as was the case with some of the pithoi. Crushing and pressing equipment has not yet been found.
A series of rock-cut chamber tombs was also found within the settlement area; in the most significant of these, tomb 11 (c. 1375 BCE), three young women, a young child, and three infants were buried together with quantities of fine imported and local pottery, gold jewelry, and other exotic grave goods; the latest skeleton was found completely intact, with its associated grave gifts in situ. The apparent wealth of the inhabitants of Ayios Dhimitrios seems to have been derived from copper trading and olive-oil manufacture.
[See also Olives.]
- Dikaios, Porphyrios. “The Stone Age.” In The Swedish Cyprus Expedition. Vol. 4. Stockholm, 1962. .
- South, Alison K. “From Copper to Kingship: Aspects of Bronze Age Society Viewed from the Vasilikos Valley.” In Early Society in Cyprus, edited by Edgar Peltenburg, pp. 315–324. Edinburgh, 1989. .
- South, Alison K., Pamela Russell, and Priscilla Schuster Keswani. Vasilikos Valley Project, part 3, Kalavasos-Ayios Dhimitrios II: Ceramics, Objects, Tombs, Special Studies. Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology, vol. 71. Göteborg, 1989. .
- South, Alison K. “Kalavasos-Ayios Dhimitrios 1991.” Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus (1992): 133–146. The latest results of excavations at this site, including notes on gas chromatography analyses by Priscilla S. Keswani.
- Todd, Ian A., ed. Vasilikos Valley Project, part 1, The Bronze Age Cemetery in Kalavasos Village. Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology, vol. 71. Göteborg, 1986. .
- Todd, Ian A. Vasilikos Valley Project, part 6, Excavations at Kalavasos-Tenta. Vol. 1. Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology, vol. 71. Göteborg, 1987. .
Ian A. Todd and Alison K. South