Friday, 7 February 2014

Discover Chalcolithic Cyprus...with your dog

Chalcolithic site at Lempa with reconstructed Chalcolithic houses behind
Speaking to some friends last night, I found myself defending Cyprus against criticisms that it is not so culturally and historically rich as elsewhere in the Mediterranean, such as Greece or Malta. I don't know why people have this idea of Cyprus; it is simply wrong.

Reconstructions at Lempa Experimental Village
One of the most exciting things about this island is the fact that you can't go more than a few metres in any direction without stumbling on yet another site of archaeological or historical significance. From the spectacular Neolithic structures at the UNESCO site of Choirokoitia (as well as the lesser known site of Kalavassos Tenta), the wealth of Bronze Age sites throughout the island, such as Kition and Enkomi, the outstanding mosaics from the Roman settlements at Kourion and Nea Paphos, the beautiful Byzantine painted churches dotted all over the Troodos mountain range, to the fortifications, the mosques, the monuments..... the length of time that people have been living here, on this one small island, and leaving behind glimpses of their lives, is actually incredible.

At the gate to the site at Lempa
So today's post is about just one of these amazing sites, Chalcolithic Lempa... with your dog.

Lempa is an archaeological site 4 km north of Paphos. It was excavated by the University of Edinburgh in the late '70s. The settlement was formed during the Chalcolithic period (3800-2500 BC), the transitional period between the Neolithic (Stone Age) and the Bronze Age.

A number of stone female figurines were found at Lempa, most of which are exhibited in the Paphos Archaeological Museum, although the large, phallic figurine (seen in the photo to the left) is on display in the Archaeological Museum in Nicosia.

Not much remains of the Chalcolithic site, except for the foundations of large round stone buildings. Visitors to this site would find it difficult to interpret what they were seeing, if it weren't for the amazing reconstructions that have been constructed close by.

Remains of circular building at Lempa
These reconstructions began in the early '80s, as the Lempa Experimental Village, and were a collaboration between the local residents, the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, and archaeologists.
Reconstructions at Lempa
These buildings are extremely important to understanding what materials and methods were used, how you can create such structures with traditional tools, how the buildings deteriorate and collapse etc. 

Other activities have also been tested there, such as pottery firing and prehistoric cooking techniques.

Some of the houses have been left unfinished, so visitors can really see the materials that were used to make the mud bricks and mud plaster. Other buildings have been finished with a layer of mud plaster, then painted with a traditional red earth pigment.

This is an amazing resource for learning about prehistoric Cyprus - what life might have been like, the houses they lived in, how they built them, how they cooked.

Reconstructed building left unfinished 
So, can you visit Lempa with your dog?

I went to the Chalcolithic site of Lempa while my parents were visiting me last autumn. I took my dog Sage along, as we were already out for the day. Dogs and archaeological sites don't usually mix very well, but this site was quite convenient.

Firstly, you can see a great deal of this fairly small and compact site from outside of the perimeter fence.

Secondly, there are trees around the fence, providing shade, so it's possible to tie your dog outside in the shade while you go to see the remains (again, it is a small site, so you can stay in sight of your dog).

Lastly, there are very few visitors to this site (nobody while we were there), so if your dog makes a bit of a fuss being left outside, you can wait for a quiet time when any other visitors have left.

Sage by the entrance to Lempa archaeological site

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