Looking across an eroded pillow lava landscape at the end of a long survey transect near Politiko.
(Photograph: Megan Mebberson)

Pockets of agriculture in the igneous pillow lava zone, near Politiko.
(Photograph: Michael Given)

The Sydney Cyprus Survey Project worked in the northern Troodos foothills of central Cyprus from 1992 to 1998. This area forms the zone where the sedimentary agricultural plain meets the igneous Pillow Lavas, where copper has been mined since the Bronze Age. The project established a systematic, intensive survey methodology on a broad interdisciplinary basis: specialists working with SCSP included not just archaeologists and archaeometallurgists but geomorphologists, a geobotanist, historians, an ethnographer, historical archaeologists, and GIS experts. This allowed us to understand the landscape in all its physical, economic and social aspects, at all periods from Early Prehistory to the present day.

SCSP was initially based at Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia) and from 1996 was based at the Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Project Aims

  • to investigate human activity across the entire landscape in a regional context

  • to examine the areas mineral, geological and agricultural resources

  • to reconstruct settlement hierarchies and their change through time

  • to investigate the social and economic impact of mining and agriculture on the landscape

  • to refine intensive survey practices using GIS, geomorphology, and satellite imagery

SCSP was the first co-ordinated survey project anywhere in the Troodos Mountain region to identify and locate industrial sites and agricultural villages; to reconsider and redefine the existence of a proposed site hierarchy (mining/resource sites, agricultural villages, urban centres); and to reconstruct early industrial and agricultural landscapes. SCSP was interested not only in locating sites, but also in determining human-land relations throughout the landscape. In fact we were interested in the total landscape. Our framework for interpretation was based on the belief that the study of people cannot be separated from the study of their environment and, conversely, that the environment will alter as humans alter their society. SCSP dealt with the human transformation of a landscape over a period of 5000 years. We considered not only how humans modified the landscape they inhabited, but also how natural history and resources impacted on socio-cultural development and change.

In writing about landscapes, archaeologists often tend to overlook the human experience of place. Such places can be imbued with deep personal, ideological and economic significance. SCSP's methodology and philosophy represent our attempt to engage field survey within a social archaeology. The long-term, sociohistorical perspective of this project formed an important research focus of its several principal collaborators. The interactive study by diverse specialists using innovative technologies to reconstruct past landscapes has enabled SCSP to make a different kind of contribution to the archaeological history of Cyprus. Only through interdisciplinary survey, excavation, exploration and social analysis can one gain a better awareness of the early agricultural and industrial landscapes that typify the island of Cyprus.

The results and data from SCSP's work are being disseminated in four different media:

  • academic publication, in particular the final monograph The Sydney Cyprus Survey Project: Social Approaches to Regional Survey by Michael Given and A. Bernard Knapp (University of California at Los Angeles, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, 2003), and a series of articles and papers;

  • a general-interest booklet in Greek, published in 2002 and distributed to schools and libraries in the survey area : Sta ichni ton archaion: istoria kai archaiologia tis periochis Orinis stin kentriki Kypro 'Nicosia, 2002' (In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The History and Archaeology of the Orini District in Cyprus);

  • an overview on this website, with the facility of exploring the survey area in maps, photographs and descriptions;

  • a digital archive curated and presented by the Archaeology Data Service. This consists primarily of database and GIS files, and images giving GIS-generated analyses of human activity across the landscape.