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The Colonisation and Settlement of Cyprus: Investigations at Kissonerga–Mylouthkia, 1976–1996

The Colonisation and Settlement of Cyprus: Investigations at Kissonerga–Mylouthkia, 1976–1996

Edited by Edgar Peltenburg. With contributions by Diane Bolger, Sue Colledge, Paul Croft, Sherry C. Fox, Elizabeth Goring, Adam Jackson, Dororthy A. Lunt, Carole McCartney, Mary Anne Murray, Janet Ridout-Sharpe, Gordon Thomas, and Marie E. Watt (Lemba Archaeological Project 3[1], SIMA 70[4]). Pp. xxxviii + 320, figs. 90, pls. 23. Paul Åströms Förlag, Såvedalen 2003. SEK 900. ISBN 91-7081-119-9 (paper).

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The site of Kissonerga-Mylouthkia has been known to the archaeological community involved in research programs on the island of Cyprus since the mid 1970s. For many years the site was chronologically ascribed to the Early Chalcolithic, although almost nothing had been published. Recently it was included in the list of sites that are dated to the pre-Khirokitian culture, before ca. 7000 B.C., along with another important site, Parekklisha-Shillourokampos. The date of these two sites lengthened the time span for the Early Neolithic of the island to 1,200 years earlier than it was generally believed. The publication of Mylouthkia is therefore a pleasant and particularly interesting event in archaeological literature.

The book is an important contribution to the understanding of the earliest prehistory of Cyprus. It is divided into two main parts. The first concerns the pre-Khirokitian wells, and the second presents the remains dating to the Chalcolithic period. Both structure and quality of content are up to contemporary research standards. There is a detailed presentation of all types of finds in specific chapters. Most of them have been written by authors whose expertise is well known. Each chapter includes long analytical sections, detailed final interpretations, and conclusions, and thus embeds the new data within the context of archaeological debate.

At the end of the text there is a series of appendices and finally the illustrations. Appendices contain catalogues of features, deposits, artifacts, and other movable finds. Mylouthkia follows the same recording system as other Lemba Archaeological Project (LAP) excavations in which the numbering of all finds is continuous. This is useful when processing a database. Nevertheless, it renders a flowing text difficult to understand because it requires the reader to constantly refer to the appendices. This difficulty is particularly evident when reading the sections on stratigraphy. Despite tables and other illustrations, which are present throughout the book and cover all types of material, the lack of Harris matrix diagrams impedes the reader.

Several points demand special attention. In chapter 13, on the Chalcolithic architectural remains, two authors have submitted two different discussion sections (123–32). On one hand, they disagree on the attribution of excavation data to types of architectural features (e.g., the identification of walls, postholes, and floors); on the other hand, they dispute the events that led to the destruction of Building 200, one of the most important discoveries at Mylouthkia. The disagreement concerns the recording of the excavation data rather than the interpretation, since each author provides different information and deposit descriptions. Although this is an example of multivocality, suggesting that Mylouthkia was excavated in a highly democratic spirit, it implies a lack of effective teamwork. This is the responsibility of the director, who nevertheless in the final conclusions seems to clearly lean toward one of the two sides. This inevitably creates confusion and unnecessary doubt for the overall quality of the work, which has never occurred in other LAP publications.

The second point concerns the surprisingly brief references to the site of Parekklisha-Shil-lourokampos, which also has a pre-Khirokitian phase and became known to the archaeological community before the publication of Mylouthkia, though in the form of preliminary reports and conference papers.

The third point relates to the use of the Levantine pre-Pottery Neolithic terminology (PPN A and B) in the dating of the Neolithic remains. This is not unanimously accepted, and suggests, either implicitly or explicitly, that Cyprus was an extension of the Levant, materially, socially, and historically. As much as there are undoubted and important connections between the two areas, rigorously defensible datasets are necessary before jumping into categorical arguments.

The final point concerns an inconsiderate, if not unacceptable, remark in the final conclusions (275). When referring to how the excavation of Mylouthkia has led to our revised understanding of the sociohistorical evolution in early prehistoric Cyprus, Peltenburg criticizes past views and notes: “Concentration on such research agendas was also favoured by funding bodies and permit-granting authorities.” This is a serious accusation against the Department of Antiquities in Cyprus, the only permit-granting authority on the island. If this allegation can be substantiated, Peltenburg should provide concrete evidence.

Despite the above deficiencies, the Mylouthkia publication is an example of good scholarly work that provides a comprehensive picture of the site. It promises new and important insights into early prehistoric Cyprus.

Eleni Mantzourani
Department of History and Archaeology
University of Athens
University Campus, Zographou
Athens 157 84

Book Review of The Colonisation and Settlement of Cyprus: Investigations at Kissonerga–Mylouthkia, 1976–1996, edited by Edgar Peltenburg

Reviewed by Eleni Mantzourani

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 110, No. 4 (October 2006)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1104.Mantzourani

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