Lemba Archaeological Project. Vol. II.2
A Ceremonial Area at Kissonerga.
by Edgar J. Peltenburg et al.
This report describes and analyses exceptionally rich chalcolithic deposits recovered during the fifth and sixth seasons of the Lemba Archaeological Project's excavations at Kissonerga. The most remarkable of these, Unit 1015, was excavated on the 22nd and 23rd of September, 1987. It consisted of a pit filled with heat-fractured stones, ash and some 50 objects including a pottery Building Model, ostensibly domestic stone tools, triton shell, model stool and many figurines, one explicitly shown in the act of giving birth. Together with a set of nested bowls amongst heat-cracked stones in an adjacent pit, Unit 1225, it comprises an assemblage unique in the annals of Cypriot prehistory and is now prominently displayed in Room 1 of the Cyprus Museum, Nicosia.
Circumstances indicate that we are dealing with the archaeology of deliberate deposits in a non-mortuary context of c. 3000 BC. The deposits provide evidence for the chronology of the earliest stages of Cypriot coroplastic art and for a significant extension to the repertoire of representational art of chalcolithic Cyprus. Above all, it is hoped to show that they provide significant evidence for communal ritual activity which has been so singularly lacking in the archaeological record of pre-Bronze Age Cyprus. These unique finds thus convey information on other aspects of ideology than do the common settlements and graves.
Since we have finished excavations in the area of these deposits and their significance extends well beyond the settlements at Kissonerga, it was decided to publish them as a separate monograph before the publication of the whole site. Because of their uniqueness, particular attention is paid to contextual analysis, to the wear and treatment of objects which, having been intentionally buried, were not subject to secondary attrition in general habitation debris, and to selected comparanda, especially where they help to establish general arguments. Since the deposits belong to a small-scale prehistoric society, the approach adopted here rejects interpretations based, for example, on extrapolations from later Classical authors' understanding of votive offerings or from the Near Eastern tradition of foundation offerings. The discussion of the finds is rather framed in terms of the intrinsic strengths of archaeology: a close analysis of the artifacts and associated organics, and their context, spatially within the pits, the ceremonial area, and the settlement and temporally within the development of the Erimi culture and the long durée of East Mediterranean prehistory. This contextual approach is also framed in terms of the wider realization that ritual plays an integral role in many spheres of socio-political life and that it cannot be divorced from the secular domain. The integration of these spheres is vividly illustrated by the inclusion of several ostensibly "domestic" ground stone tools in this "ritual" setting. This is but one example of the many connotations afforded by the richness of these deposits.
Because of its singular nature in Cypriot prehistory, it has not been possible to make inferences from other insular examples. So, the presentation lays stress on contextual parameters and it has been structured in two parts. In § 1-10 is a detailed description of what constitutes the ceremonial area and an evaluation of the distinctiveness of its components. Based on conclusions from the analysis of these elements and advances in studies of prehistoric hoarding practices, § 11 provides a tentative reconstruction of the ceremonies, their timing and interaction with Erimi culture developments, inferences on the active roles of the object prior to their burial, and an assessment of the evolution of the institutionalization of religion in Cyprus. These deposits should make a useful contribution to the role of dramatic ritual and public ceremony in dynamically evolving small-scale societies.
Recording methods are standardized within the Lemba Archaeological Project to ensure the validity of inter-site comparisons. Inevitably, some refinements have been made to the nomenclature used at Lemba, and these are described in LAP II.1. Here it will suffice to state that context titles have been changed from the Lemba co-ordinate system to a continuous sequence of Unit numbers at Kissonerga.
Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology