Cyprus may have been inhabited long before was previously thought, according to a new study.

The study, carried out by researchers at the Flinders University in the Australian city of Adelaide, led by Professor Corey Bradshaw, showed analysis of archaeological dating from the 10 oldest sites on the island suggest that the first human occupation was between 13,182 and 14,257 years ago.

Previous estimates had suggested that hunter-gatherers had first arrived on the island between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago, The study appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers say that following the first arrivals, the island was rapidly settled, with climate modelling from the time indicating that these arrivals coincided with increases in temperature, precipitation and environmental conditions which sustained large hunter-gatherer populations.

Using demographic modelling, the study’s authors suggested that large groups of hundreds or thousands of people arrived in Cyprus in two or three main migration events across the span of less than 100 years.

They believe that within 300 years, Cyprus’ population had expanded to around between 4,000 and 5,000 people.

The study suggests that western areas of Cyprus were settled first, with archaeological sites in the Paphos villages of Kissonerga and Kritou Marottou containing those first settlements.

Other sites further eastwards which were settled in the first waves of human arrivals in Cyprus included the Limassol villages of Parekklisia, Ayios Tychonas, Kalavasos and Akrotiri, as well as in Ayia Varvara, on Nissi beach, and at the Ciftlikduzu archaeological site in Akanthou.

Professor Bradshaw said the settlement pattern “implies organised planning and the use of advanced watercraft”.

In addition, researcher Dr Theodora Moutsiou said the results of the study show that Cyprus and possibly other Mediterranean islands would have been attractive destinations for palaeolithic hunter-gatherer societies.

“It has been argued that human dispersal to and settlement of Cyprus and other eastern Mediterranean islands is attributed to demographic pressures on the mainland” at the time.

This, she said, came “after abrupt climactic change saw coastal areas inundated by post-glacial sea-level rise, forcing farming populations to move to new areas out of necessity rather than choice,” she said.