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Archaeologists unearth earliest complete human figurine in Cyprus

Archaeologists unearth earliest complete human figurine in Cyprus The figuring found at the Ayia Varvara-Asprokremmos site

EXCAVATIONS at Ayia Varvara-Asprokremnos have uncovered the earliest complete human figurine currently known on Cyprus, the Antiquities Department said yesterday.

The age of the statue could range from 10,500 to 11,000 years old based on the fact it was discovered at a site that has been radio-carbon dated to between 8800-8600 BC.

The period marks the beginning of the Neolithic period in Cyprus at a time when the transition from hunting to farming economies was beginning throughout the Middle East.

“Taking the Neolithic Revolution into the Mediterranean zone, the occupants of Ayia Varvara-Asprokremnos carried cultural traditions and intensive resource procurement and manufacturing activity to the island some 11,000 years before the present,” said a statement from the department.

The figurine was found in a collection of four igneous stone objects including two flat cobbles, one with an extensive red ochre reside, a perfectly pecked stone sphere, along with the complete female statuette.

“This cache of artifacts was used to mark the abandonment of the structure and provides the earliest complete human figurine currently known on Cyprus,” the department said.

A third large semi-subterranean building was also unearthed, as was a simple dish-shaped pit structure furnished with a single post-hole that could have supported only a comparatively light roof for its earliest curvilinear earth floor, with a cluster of small stake holes providing evidence of a similarly light super-structure during a later re-occupation of the building.

Another feature of the site though simple architecturally, revealed a substantial cache of river stones and ground stone tools placed on the floor and used for the processing of ochre, implying an intensification of the ochre industry during this phase.

The 2013 excavations continued to unearth evidence of significant manufacturing activity associated with the production of chipped stone tools, which together with a second resource, namely ochre, combine to explain the choice of site location adjacent to the Lefkara chalk belt and the sulfide deposits of Mathiatis.

“The processing of multi-coloured pigments was facilitated by a large array of ground stone tools dominated by pounding tools and grinders that facilitated the processing of pigments as evidenced by significant numbers of tools with ochre residues,” said the Antiquities Department. Such tools were cached in features dug into structure floors or placed in heaps along with other evidence of occupation including discarded chert tools and animal bones.

One new artifact type associated with the processing of ochre was marked by a number of large chalk slabs exhibiting ochre residues in conjunction with clear cut marks on working surfaces that appear to have functioned as cutting boards.

Unique among the finds were two large pits each with a thick clay lining that could have facilitated the storage of water within the structure. Postholes and burnt mud plaster encircling the circumference of the interior pit wall of the structure provided evidence of a substantial timber super-structure used to roof the building.

The excavations were conducted from the end of March to mid-June 2013 under the direction of Dr Carole McCartney on behalf of the Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Cyprus working in partnership with Cornell University and the University of Toronto.

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