Geometric to Classical Periods

Joanna S. Smith

SCSP Survey Area: Geometric to Classical Pottery Density & POSIs

Discoid Classical or Hellenistic loomweight. Hole near one edge. Stamped impression on rounded rim, probably from a finger-ring, showing an unguentarium or possibly a figure holding an object. Dia 6.7 cm Weight 100 gm. Inventory no. S-0050, from Klirou Manastirka (SCY132).
Photo: Michael Given


Body fragment of Cypro-Geometric III -Cypro-Archaic I Bichrome jug. Length 4.5 cm. Inventory no. 1629.2.1, from Politiko Phorades 3 (SCY123).
Photo: Karen Ulrich.


Body, arms, and legs of Cypro-Archaic I or early Cypro-Archaic II mould-made plaque - figurine holding her breasts and wearing a necklace. Head and feet missing. Length 8.3 cm. Inventory no. SCY204.1.1, from Agrokipia Kriadhis 3 (SCY204).
Photo: Karen Ulrich


Right hand of near life-size Archaic - Classical terracotta statue. Hand held palm up, fingers articulated from palm, underside undifferentiated. Length 11.9 cm. Inventory no. 5022.1.1, from Politiko Ayios Mnason 3 (SCY365).
Photo: Karen Ulrich.


Flat disk base and lower half of body of small, plainware, Classical juglet. Strap handle scar on body. Diameter 4.0 cm. (inv. no. 5019.20.1, from Politiko Ayios Mnason).
Photo: Chris Parks.

The study of the Geometric to Classical landscapes of Cyprus has revolved almost entirely around the study of its city-kingdoms. Tamassos, just beyond the eastern edge of the Sydney Cyprus Survey Project (SCSP) area, is a typical example. During the 1970s the 'Deutsche Tamassos-Expedition' examined the Cypro-Archaic elite tombs at Politiko Chomazoudhia, on the northern edge of the city, and excavated the adjacent sanctuary, part of the city wall, and various other tombs in the area. Apart from sporadic investigation of already-known rural sanctuaries and traces of copper mining, until the SCSP, little was known of Tamassos'; countryside. SCSP's approach aimed to address this shortcoming by focusing on landscape activities through the analysis of intensive survey data. The wealth of material recorded by SCSP allowed us to examine not only the city and its kingdom but also the hitherto unexplored social and economic relations that incorporated them into a single human landscape.

Although little evidence for the early Geometric period was observed, the survey revealed that the SCSP landscape during the late Geometric, Archaic, and Classical periods was heavily used and exploited for craft and industry, agriculture, cult, and domestic life. Much of this activity clearly revolved around Tamassos, which controlled the region politically. Of course, our understanding of diachronic change during the Iron Age within the SCSP area is reliant upon analysing the material culture found in the landscape. This understanding can be limited because of the difficulties involved in assigning precise dates to much surface material, particularly pottery. Often the sherds are worn and the majority are undecorated plain and coarse wares, usually in the form of non-diagnostic body sherds. However, it is clear that the general sequence of shapes and decorations currently used to identify Iron Age Cypriot pottery is useful in defining the more diagnostic sherds found by SCSP. The dates, functions, style, and find locations of the ceramics, terracottas, and other small finds combine with archaeometallurgical, geomorphological, and other SCSP survey data to form a detailed picture of life during the Cypriot Iron Age.

Industry: metallurgy, pottery, stone working, textiles

Of the six surviving ancient copper processing locations in the SCSP survey area, we know from stratified pottery and radiocarbon dating that at least three operated during the ninth to fifth centuries BC: the ore roasting and beneficiation site at Agrokipia Kriadhis (SCY022; ninth-fifth centuries BC); an ore-processing site just below the mining adits at Politiko Kokkinorotsos (SIA 7, SCY116; eighth-fifth centuries BC); and a large copper production site at Mitsero Kokkinoyia (SIA 11; Archaic-Classical).

Pottery manufacture was documented in two locations. At Politiko Ayios Mnason (SIA 6), a series of wasters, warped and vitrified pieces, possibly vitrified kiln material, and over-fired fragments attest to a pottery (and possibly also terracotta) workshop just beyond the city wall of Tamassos in association with the Archaic-Classical sanctuary found at Ayios Mnason. In Klirou Mazovounos (SCY211), again in the vicinity of a sanctuary, low-fired, soft, friable iron-rich clay vessels and figurines were made, possibly specifically for dedication in the sanctuary.

Other industries in the SCSP landscape can only be presumed. The sanctuary architecture at Chomazoudhia, the city walls of Tamassos, and, above all, the elite Archaic tombs obviously required skilled stonemasons and sculptors, as well as quarry workers and builders, although SCSP found no traces of quarrying. The discovery of three loomweights from Klirou Manastirka (SIA 2), Malounda Panayia Khrysopandanassa (SIA 10), and the settlement at Politiko Phorades 3 (SCY123) show that people wove in these areas.


Little is known about agricultural practice and organisation in the Geometric to Classical periods in Cyprus. The sanctuary at Chomazoudhia on the edge of Tamassos contained extensive remains of animal bones around the altar, mostly sheep, goat, and oxen, and bowls containing the remains of olives and grain. Such indicators of ceremonial activity within the Archaic and Classical kingdoms suggest that people both dedicated and sacrificed the agro-pastoral products of the region.

Of the various patterns discernible in the distribution of Archaic-Classical pottery across the SCSP area, some probably represent agricultural activity. The heavy concentration in the east is due partly to the rural sanctuary at Ayios Mnason (SCY365) and partly to its location at the edge of Tamassos. The scatters in SIA 7 are most likely associated with copper production. The broad but light scatter across the alluvial plains northwest of Politiko (the northeast corner of the survey area), east and southeast of Klirou, and perhaps west and southwest of Malounda, probably represent manuring, suggesting that agricultural production was intensive in the plains nearest Tamassos and in some of the alluvial plain of the Akaki river.

In geomorphological terms most of this area is relatively stable Holocene alluvium, so the data are more meaningful than those from the heavily eroded southeast of the survey area. It is also good arable land, currently extensively used for barley, and to a lesser extent for olives. In the absence of any structural remains it is hard to interpret the density peaks that interrupt the broad scatters; indeed, most were discovered only by means of GIS analysis of the pottery density, rather than by observing anything particularly noteworthy in the field. We might suggest that the alluvial plains in the SCSP area were exploited by people living on dispersed farmsteads, represented by our sudden and limited density peaks, with intensive production and manuring in the land between them.


Because roof tile from this period is rare and many buildings may not have been roofed with ceramic or stone tile, it can be hard to distinguish settlement from other forms of intensive activity in the landscape. We knew that the city of Tamassos extended more or less up to the eastern part of Politiko Ayios Mnason (SIA 6). One unit at the eastern edge of Ayios Mnason revealed a level of pottery (Pottery Index of 11,000) and other finds that indicate the presence of a settlement. The other density peak in SIA 6, however, which has even larger figures, is actually a sanctuary, not a settlement.

In addition to density figures, the nature of the pottery found can be suggestive of settlement areas. For example, the Archaic-Classical units at Politiko Kokkinorotsos (SIA 7) contain material that are likely to be from settlement, domestic, or even industrial activities. This applies particularly to Politiko Phorades 3 (SCY123), which has tiles, walls, a loomweight, and lamp fragments, along with a wide range of wares for storing, cooking, eating and drinking from the Archaic to Hellenistic periods. Unlike most Iron Age sites, this area contains no figurines or other items that are primarily votive in function.

Another possible settlement area is Agrokipia Kriadhis (SIA 1), where the high percentage of imported Greek pottery outweighs the number of Geometric-Classical period imports in all other parts of the SCSP landscape. Whether the location of habitation or not, Agrokipia Kriadhis was the locus of some kind of elite activity in the Archaic-Classical periods. A mould-made female figurine from the same area may suggest that the Greek imports derive from tombs rather than a settlement.

SCSP's intensive survey led to the discovery of two rural sanctuaries. Five others were already known in the area (see map): Kalokhorio Zithkionas; Philani Petalloudhes; Politiko Mialathi; and the well-known sanctuaries of Pera Frangissa and Meniko Litharkes. Putting these together, we can propose a more systematic and contextual analysis of sacred landscapes for Archaic and Classical Cyprus. Klirou Mazovounos (SCY211) consists of a scatter of friable pottery and two figurine fragments on a small hill looking down an agricultural valley. The other sanctuary in the survey area, Politiko Ayios Mnason 3 (SCY365), is considerably larger, with a broad scatter of terracotta figurine and statue fragments, miniature vessels, and pottery for storage as well as eating and drinking. Amid this material were traces of a pottery production area. It lies about 500 m west of Tamassos, on top of a rise overlooking the rich and intensively exploited Tamassos plain.

Two topographic patterns characterise the location of these sanctuaries. Mazovounos, Ayios Mnason and Zithkionas lie on a hill or knoll with a view over agricultural land. Frangissa, Mialathi and Litharkes lie in valley bottoms close to rivers or streams, though still adjacent to good agricultural land. Dedications of agricultural produce were made in some sanctuaries, especially those dedicated to the Cypriot goddess such as at Chomazoudhia. Other sanctuaries show evidence for storage of agricultural products. Such functions perhaps help to explain this common feature of a sanctuary's location. Mialathi and Ayios Mnason are within 500 m of the city, a pattern that is much more evident at Idalion, where eight sanctuaries ring the city, many of them on local high points overlooking agricultural land. One pattern that does not apply is an association between rural sanctuaries and copper production. Only Petalloudhes lies in or adjacent to the pillow lavas. The apparent association between figurines and copper production at Mathiati Mavrovouni is uncertain, as the figurines merely underlie the slag and could be much earlier, even deriving from tombs in the area.