Archaeologists have discovered what they believe could be one of the earliest documented formal human burials found on Cyprus to date at Kretou Marottou-Ais Yiorkis, they said on Thursday.
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, the Antiquities Department said. It consists of an adult individual, probably a male.
Similar sites in Cyprus have shown that the island was in early and consistent contact with the mainland Neolithic, and indicate that the island was colonised far earlier than previously believed.
Human remains, however, had been elusive at all early Neolithic sites, “thus a formal burial is very significant”, the department said.
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 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 department added.
The newly-discovered site was discovered during the 2014 excavation season at the early Neolithic site by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), under the direction of Dr Alan H Simmons and funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.
The grave fill was especially rich in stones, animal bones and chipped stone, compared with the fill of the larger pit.
The site is located in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains in the Paphos region, rather than near the coast, a more common Neolithic pattern.
The department said it had 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.
Animal bones found included 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 colonisation of Cyprus,” the department said.
“It is especially significant due to its rare upland location, its unique architecture and its well-preserved paleoeconomic data”.
Over 300,000 items have been recovered to date.