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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Sotira Culture (Ceramic Neolithic) (Cyprus)
c.5000 - 4000 BC

The Sotira culture of Cyprus filled the gap left by the abandonment of Khirokitia culture sites. This particular culture of Neolithic Farmers appears to have formed about two centuries after the first influx of pottery onto the island. It was brought in by a new wave of settlers who arrived around 5250 BC, possibly from the Levant's Yarmukian culture, although several sister cultures existed alongside this.

Some sources place the rise of the Sotira at a later date, around 4500 BC, but most seem to agree that there was a gap of about half a millennium between the fall of the Khirokitia and the very first appearance of the Sotira.

Despite there being evidence of settlers who brought with them new forms of technology and new techniques, there is no evidence of any external trade. These people arrived on their own and then were isolated. Any potential social stratification which may have occurred is difficult to ascertain during the comparatively short-lived period in which this culture and its people flourished.

The culture gained its name through the examination of the type site at Sotira-Teppes. Like most Ceramic Neolithic sites, this was located near the coast, on high ground which was easily defendable. Another key site is at Ayios Epiktitos-Vyrsi. Ceramic sites are only found on the east of the island, showing that these newcomers did not reach either the west or the Karpass peninsula (the long 'finger' at the north-eastern corner of Cyprus), and probably confirming that they arrived from the Levant.

There were regional differences, and technical improvements as the culture progressed. Of the thirty villages known to have been home to the culture, only a few were still inhabited in the next period - the Erimi - but, as with the Khirokitia before it, why the majority of Sotira sites were abandoned is not known.

Chalcolithic pot found in Hebron, Israel

(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), and The Sotira Culture: Regional Diversity and Cultural Unity in Late Neolithic Cyprus (Taylor & Francis Online).)

c.5000 BC

Sotira culture appears on Cyprus, with settlements at sites such as Sotira-Teppes, Ayios Epiktitos-Vrysi (which has a series of semi-subterranean houses with sunken floors), Philia-Drakos (which also has subterranean chambers), Troulli, and Khirokitia (replacing the abandoned Khirokitia cultural phase).

There is evidence for the household production of pottery, in buildings which are primarily rectangular with rounded corners. Burials are extramural instead of under the floor of the house.

Ceramic pots on Cyprus
Pottery was first introduced onto Cyprus around 5250 BC, with the descendants of those people being responsible for giving birth to the Sotira culture

c.4000 BC

The settlement of forty-seven structures at Sotira-Teppes is abandoned around this time for reasons unknown. Again on Cyprus, the disappearance of the Sotira culture leaves no obvious successor. Some scholars argue for an island-wide gap in the archaeological record, while others envision a direct transition into the early Chalcolithic.

However, there is a dearth of knowledge of the early Chalcolithic period, between 4000-3500 BC when the Erimi culture first appears, which hinders any understanding of the end of the Neolithic Farmer period and the beginning of the Chalcolithic period.

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