Cyprus // Larnaka and around //

Neolithic settlements

The three valleys that run north from the main Larnaka–Lemesos roads (to Kalavasos, Tochni and Choirokoitia), contain two extremely important Neolothic sites, both well signposted from both the A1 and the B1.

You can’t miss the Tenta site – it’s protected by a sort of modern wigwam, erected in 1995, that can be seen for miles around (including from the A1 motorway). Discovered in 1947 and further excavated between 1976 and 1984, the site was probably originally settled about 9000 years ago. It consists of the remains of clusters of circular huts made of limestone, sun-dried mud bricks and probably timber. Around 150 Neolithic people lived here, with their sheep, goats and pigs (but not cattle, for some reason). The dead were buried under the floor or just outside the huts; there were no grave goods but numerous utensils and ornaments (now in museums in Lefkosia and Larnaka) were found. The site was shut at the time of writing – the wigwam, which not only protects the site but which bears the viewing platform that circumscribes it, had been badly damaged by the explosion at the nearby Evangelos Florakis Naval Base, and no visitors will be allowed until it has been made safe.

The Choirokoitia archeological site is of similar age and type to the Tenta one, but is much more extensive, and contains modern reconstructions of what the circular huts might have looked like. Discovered in 1934, and excavated from 1936 to 1946, with additional work having been done since 1976, Choirokotia became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. It’s now easily accessible from a comprehensive system of wooden steps and walkways, and has excellent information boards.

Uniquely, this Neolithic village had a massive defensive wall (of which a stretch of around nearly 200m still stands to a height of 4m or more on the side not protected by the river, and there’s a vast entrance structure consisting of three flights of steps designed not only to allow those entering the village to climb up from the lower, external level, but also to act as a first line of defence against enemies. The huts vary in size, though are usually around 10m external diameter, 5m internally, and as at Tenta are built of stone and sun-dried mud bricks, with a probable timber superstructure. Interestingly, huts are clustered together around common courtyards, presumably according to function or family size, with this open area being used for activities such as grinding corn. The reconstructed huts at the bottom of the actual site were made as far as possible using only materials, techniques and skills available to the people of that time. So the mud bricks were made without moulds, and only pine timber was used. After the exertions of the site, especially if you’ve climbed right to the top, you could do worse than stop for drinks and a snack at the Chrismarie Bakery at the entrance to the car park.