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.
Tenta Neolithic Village
You can’t miss the Tenta Neolithic Village – it’s protected by a sort of modern wigwam, erected in 1995, that can be seen for many kilometres around (including from the A1 motorway that passes nearby). 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.
Access to the site is via wooden steps and walkways, and huts are clearly numbered and explained on information boards. Look out particularly for Structure 35, where red ochre was worked (it contained a large stone basin with lumps of partially worked ochre and the stone tools used to grind it), and Structure 11, which had ochre wall paintings of two human figures with arms raised. Entry to the site includes a pamphlet which outlines its history and the finds associated with it – just enough detail to contextualize what you see, but not enough to be tedious. Tenta really is a must-visit – all archeological sites should be this imaginatively displayed and clearly and comprehensively explained.
Chorokoitia archeological site
The Choirokoitia archeological site, originating about 9,000 years ago, 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, Choirokoitia became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
The site lies on a steep hillside, accessed via a lung-busting flight of steps. 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. In addition to four complete reconstructed huts, a couple of “cut-away” reconstructions house excellent information boards.
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.