Arediou-Vouppes (Lithosouros) A Late Bronze Age Farming Community on Cyprus

Research is ongoing at Arediou-Vouppes, a Late Bronze Age settlement in Cyprus. The site is located at the interface between the Mesaoria plain and the northern foothills of the Troodos mountains.

View over excavations in 2006.

The site at Arediou was first identified by SCSP in 1993, and was classified as an agricultural support village, based on the large quantities of pithos sherds (storage jars) and ground stone tools found on the surface. It was suggested that agricultural surplus from Arediou was used to support communities at nearby mining settlements or was perhaps sent to the larger urban centres. Fieldwork carried out since 2004 has tested this hypothesis.

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Research Objectives

Various settlement models have been suggested for LBA Cyprus. These form the basis for complex socio-economic models integrating smaller inland settlements with the coastal towns. However, the nature of inland settlement and agricultural production on the island is poorly understood, not least because excavations have tended to focus on the larger urban centres. Consequently, the primary objective of research at Arediou is to examine the nature of occupation for a small LBA settlement in the Cypriot interior. Specifically we aim to:

  1. Define a farmstead or village according to its material remains (its architecture, pottery assemblage, lithics, etc).
  2. Establish the economic basis (eg. agricultural, pastoral, involvement in copper procurement and production).
  3. Explore possible integration in island-wide socio-economic systems (indigenous and extra-insular trade, economic documents, luxuries).

‌Other aims are to examine the nature of funerary practices at Arediou; whether these belong to an older, rural tradition of extramural cemeteries or the LBA tradition of burial within the settlement.

Steel, L. 2012 Revisiting Arediou. Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant 7: 53-4.
Steel, L. 2009 Exploring Regional Settlement on Cyprus in the Late Bronze Age: The Rural Hinterland. Pp. 134-145 in I. Hein (ed.), The Formation of Cyprus in the 2nd Millennium B.C. Studies in Regionalism during the Middle and Late Bronze Age. Wien: Verlages der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Steel, L. and Thomas, S 2008 Exacavations at Arediou-Vouppes (Lithosouros), Cyprus. An interim report on excavations 2005-2006. Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus: 227-49.
Steel, L. and McCartney, C. 2008 Survey at Arediou Vouppes (Lithosouros), A Late Bronze Age Agricultural Settlement on Cyprus: A Preliminary Analysis of the Material Culture Assemblages. BASOR 351: 9-37.
Steel, L. 2007 Arediou-Vouppes (Lithosouros) Excavation Project. Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant 2: 92-95.
Steel, L. 2006 Arediou-VouppesBulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant 1: 68-9. 
Steel, L. 2005 Survey at Arediou-Vouppes, Cyprus. PAST 49 (online).
Steel, L. and Janes, S. 2005 Survey at Arediou-Vouppes, Cyprus. Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus 2005: 231-244.

The project is sponsored by INSTAP and is affiliated to the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). Special thanks are due to Dr Pavlos Flourentzos, Dr Maria Hadjicosti (former Directors, Department of Antiquities, Cyprus), Despo Pilides (Acting Director, Department of Antiquities, Cyprus) and Eftychia Zachariou. The project has been supported by the local community, in particular the village mayors, Andreas Petevenos and Ioannis Ioannou, Papa Petros (the village priest) and Maria Vasileio.

The initial pilot study of Arediou was made under the auspices of the Council for British Research in the Levant. We have also received funding from ASOR, the Society of Antiquaries, the Prehistoric Society, the Pantyfedwen Fund (University of Wales), and West Wales 2000 Ltd.

The primary focus of this study season was the completion of specialist studies, photography and finds drawings in preparation of the final publication of the site. Work was funded by a research grant from the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. A key aspect of the research completed was an analysis of the faunal remains by Dr Ros Coard (UWTSD). Dr Coard likewise studied the human bones from Tomb 1, excavated in 2006 and completed a comparative analysis of these skeletal remains and the Bronze Age human populations from Kalavasos. Detailed analyses of the ground stone tools revealed interesting patterns of use and re-use of materials, including a broken quern re-used as an anvil. Slag from the site and the copper/copper alloy objects recovered in previous excavations, are being studied by Lente van Brempt, University of Cyprus.

Another priority of the study season was enhancing the visual record of Arediou. Alongside the comprehensive photographic record and the ongoing digitisation of the site plans, sections and finds drawings, the visualisation of Arediou included the creation of an artist’s impression of Bronze Age activities at the site. This was created by Eloise Govier (PhD candidate, USTSD) and has since been presented to the village school.

Artist's reconstruction of Bronze Age Arediou

Community engagement has continued to be an important aspect of research at Arediou. In 2012 the project ran a couple of interactive, hands-on workshops at the village school. Amongst the activities the children had the opportunity to grind grain on saddle querns, and to handle a variety of stone tools, animal bones and copper slag from the site. We supplied the teachers with photographs of the excavation which they have used in follow up archaeology classes.

In 2011 the CBRL partially funded archival work at Arediou Vouppes, helping towards further stud of material remains in preparation for the final publication. During this season we took the opportunity to promote dissemination of our excavation work to the local community, through the distribution of a booklet “Εκθεση του Αρεδιού” via the presiding mayor and the local council.

Another key aim was to create a photographic record of the northernmost limits of the site (Field 1033 on the 1922 cadastral map) where archaeological remains are clearly visible: we have recorded plentiful Late Bronze Age material here in previous seasons, including Plain ware and pithos sherds, ground stone tools, and a fine example of a senet gaming stone. Stone walls are clearly visible here in areas where the surface is being eroded by animal activity.

Bronze Age wall visible in goat pen

We also began library based comparative research of Arediou Vouppes and other Late Bronze Age hinterland sites. The architecture uncovered to date and aspects of the material culture clearly recall the so-called rural sanctuary at Ayia Irini, excavated by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition.

gaming stone‌Excavations continued in Building 1: the storerooms were completely uncovered, and a new work area identified. Here a large stone, possibly used as an anvil, was uncovered in association with a work surface, comprising pieces of slag set in a mortar floor. Nearby, we identified an open courtyard area with substantial pitting. Several pits contained burnt material, which is currently being examined by Dr John Crowther, UWL. We also tested the northern limits of Building 1. Here, as elsewhere in the site, there was some evidence for later Iron Age activity, including some Red Burnished pottery similar to that found in the southern Levant.

Building 2 was further explored and a second long, open ended room was identified. Limited finds were recovered in the building, but rich deposits were found immediately to the south of the building, including a number of loomweights. 

Several more gaming stones were identified at the site. These now comprise a significant element of the material culture and are currently being examined by Loveday Allen, UWL.‌

An important aspect of this year's fieldwork was a soil micromorphology project, carried out by Dr Richard MacPhail, University of London. The primary aim is to identify floor surfaces; also an understanding of the use of local soils in the manufacture of mortars.

The primary focus of the study season was the workroom (109) identified in Building 1 in 2006, in particular the group of utilitarian ceramics found in situ on the floor. Six semi-restorable vessels have been identified, including a rare Plain ware basin, several Plain ware jugs, a small short-necked pithos and a “Canaanite jar”. These vessels seem to suggest that storage and processing of a liquid commodity was an important activity within the building.

Restoring pottery from the workrooms

A sounding immediately to the south of the workroom allowed us to explore an unusual bench-like feature built from flat slabs. The construction of this bench recalls the flat stand around the well in Building 2 and a work area (75) identified in Building 1. The materials used are extraneous to the site: a possible location several kilometres away for these slabs has been suggested by the villagers of Arediou, this will need to be verified in the coming seasons.

In December 2007 we completed a geophysical survey of the site. The resulting gradiometer map (with overlays of the survey and excavation data) will provide us with preliminary data concerning the physical relationship between Buildings 1 and 2, as well as the various structures identified further to the west in 2005.

Excavating the tombExcavation largely concentrated on Building 1, a large, “industrial”, complex. An outside south-facing portico provided a shady place for activities during the summer months and a sheltered area for the winter months. Inside the building we identitifed a large couprtyard and work area, associated with a couple of storerooms. An intriguing sunken room was partially excavated. Here we found several indications of specialised, non-industrial activities, including a high percentage of imported vessels and several wall bracket fragments.

Amongst the finds found in Building 1 were several ground stone tools, including pestles, grinders, rubbers, a hammer stone, and a well-worn saddle quern, the latter found by the doorway in the portico area. several restorable Plain ware basins and jugs were found in the storerooms. Associated with the work area we found around 10kg copper slag and several copper/copper alloy trinkets. Another interesting object which was initially identified as a tethering stone, but is now believed to be a stone anchor or weight, was also found within the work area.

A second complex, has also been identified in Field 4. This consists of an open-ended building (9m in length), a courtyard and a small room containing a well (5.2m deep). Associated with the well is a small pebbled surface (possibly for standing containers on). A large saddle quern (c.90 kg) was found at a depth of 3.3m in the well. Other finds from the complex include a gaming stone and a foundation deposit of a Plain ware jug. A shallow sump-shaped pit was discovered at the southern end of the building, the purpose of which is still unclear, although its proximity to the well, suggests that it may have served to collect surface water, which in turn filtered through into the well. Interesting foundation details were also uncovered in sections of the building relating to the methods used for laying/shuttering locally made mortar. Work is currently in progress in conjunction with a Cypriot researcher into these techniques.

One of the more significant discoveries in 2006 (funded by West Wales 2000 Ltd.) was that of a tomb which had been looted in the Early Iron Age. Even though the main chamber had been densley packed with rubble, a multiple burial was unearthed on one side of the tomb floor. Grave goods included a rare round-based Black Slip jug, also a beautifully preserved bronze hook-tanged spear. Such items of military display are typical of LC I burials in the Tamassos-Poliko region. A later burial episode is represented by a complete Mycenaean stirrup jar. Alongside the grave goods on the chamber floor were human remains. Consisting mainly of longbones, mandibles and teeth, with no crania present; there were at least three individuals represented. Arrangements are being made for a comprehensive analysis of the bones including a current attempt to extract meaningful DNA from a sample of longbone.

 

field-walkingSignificant quantities of LC ceramics and lithics (ground and chipped stone tools) were recovered on the surface. The main phase of occupation dates to the 13th century but consistent recovery of LC I ceramics illustrate an earlier occupation phase in the 16th century BC. The range of pottery is also more varied than suggested by the initial reports; namely the presence of imported ceramics from Egypt, the Aegean and the Levant. In addition, part of an inscribed Minoan stirrup jar was found immediately north of the main survey area in 2006. The area covered by LC material is also larger than the 2ha originally suggested by the SCSP survey, with artefacts having been found over an estimated area of at least 10ha. Interestingly, rather than a planned architectural complex, the results of the geophysics survey show that the architectural remains appear to be sporadic over the site.