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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Khirokitia Culture (Recent Aceramic Neolithic) (Cyprus)
c.7000 - 5800 BC

The Khirokitia culture was the first native archaeological culture to arise on the island of Cyprus. It is represented by the site which bears its name, along with about twenty others across the island, and is otherwise known as the 'Recent Aceramic Neolithic' period (or Choirokoitia culture, an alternative spelling of Khirokitia).

This culture emerged to replace the Early Aceramic Neolithic, coming from a Pre-Pottery Neolithic B original in Anatolia following a long process on the island which had started with its inhabitation by Akrotiri hunter-gatherers around 10,000 BC. That process had been continued through the arrival of the first signs of Neolithic Farmer subsistence while being influenced from Anatolia and the Levant.

A settlement was formed at Khirokitia, about six kilometres from the south coast on the steep slopes of a hill which overlooks the River Maroni. It was enclosed by a wall, known to archaeologists as 'Wall 100' when it was uncovered on the western side of the site, while the rest has been calculated. Constructions on the site were circular, with flat roofs in the form of a terrace. Several of these circular constructions would be grouped together around a small inner courtyard to form a house, and an installation would be present to grind grain.

In their daily lives the site's inhabitants used flint or bone tools and receptacles which were either made from stone or basketwork (being a pre-pottery people). They kept domesticated animals, hunted game, gathered wild fruit, and cultivated plants. Their dead were buried in pits which were cut into the floors of their houses (a common practice during this period, and not just on Cyprus), and bodies were sometimes accompanied by necklaces or stone vessels.

Excavations began on the type site in 1936 and, following a long break during and after the Second World War, continued in the 1970s. They have been continued almost uninterrupted ever since, steadily uncovering the lives of these early Cypriots.

Khirokitia inhabitation on Cyprus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Archaeology in Greece, 1933-34, H G G Payne (The Journal of Hellenic Studies, The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, 1934), and from External Links: Cyprus Archaeological Sites (Cyprus Ministry of Culture & Sports), and Earliest Prehistory of Cyprus (Bryn Mawr College, an archaeology-led look at the early cultures on the island - dead link), and Ancient Origins, and Neolithic Settlement (Community Council of Khirokitia).)

c.7000 BC

The Khirokitia culture emerges on Cyprus to replace the little-known Early Aceramic Neolithic. The people of this culture establish a true farming culture at at least twenty-one sites across the island.

At a date which still seems to be uncertain, the northern slope of the hill which forms Khirokitia is abandoned. Instead, the settlement is expanded towards the west and a new enclosure wall is built to encompass it.

This wall is known to archaeology as 'Wall 284', the line of which is largely calculated at present, in relation to the uncovered section. The wall is up to two and-a-half metres thick and up to three metres in height.

Settlement at Khirokitia
The ancient cultural site of Khirokitia on the island of Cyprus sits alongside a modern recreation of the circular modules which formed the housing for these early farmers

c.5800 BC

The Khirokitia settlement of Neolithic Farmers on Cyprus is abandoned around this time for reasons unknown, and the culture leaves no obvious successor over the course of the subsequent eight hundred-or-so years.

The island is reoccupied after that period by the people of the Sotira culture. They know about pottery and have mastered the art of making it.

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