The Prastio-Mesorotsos Archaeological Expedition

The next fieldwork dates will be 8 July-9 August 2024.

HCA Excavations at the site

Location: Lemba Archaeological Research Centre, Cyprus

Project Dates: 8 July-9 August 2024

Project description

Prastio Mesorotsos is one of the most extraordinary sites in all the Mediterranean. While it has always existed as a rural village, it was first founded in the Pre-pottery Neolithic period and continued to be occupied throughout prehistory with few breaks. The inhabitants of this site likely contributed to the foundation of one of the first cities in Cyprus and one of the most important religious centres in the ancient world. After a hiatus in the Late Bronze Age, the site of Prastio Mesorotsos was reoccupied and continued to be inhabited throughout the historic periods, seeing the rise and fall of empires, the waves of new religions sweeping through the Mediterranean, and quietly carrying on a rural lifestyle through periodic upheavals and conflicts. This site provides one of the longest sequences of a single inhabitation anywhere in the archaeological world, and since 2008, archaeologists and teams of students from the University of Edinburgh and around the world have contributed to our understanding of this rare glimpse into the past.

Cyprus is generally lacking in multi-period settlements, and the longevity of a site like this provides opportunities to investigate the nature and pace of social change over a long duration, enhancing the archaeological narrative. While the nature of Prastio Mesorotsos does not lend itself to large exposures, its strength lies in its deep stratigraphy. Because of this it has been a slow process to make sense of each period of occupation, but it is now possible to summarize what has been found and publish this sequence that will act as an anchor for most periods of the archaeology of Cyprus. Establishing a continuous and lengthy sequence at a single site, while more familiar on the mainland of SW Asia, has never been attempted in Cyprus. While Prastio Mesorotsos may not represent the entirety of the archaeological story in Cyprus, this site will provide a fundamental touchstone for all future work.

The periods represented at the site include a variety of remains dating to:

Pre-Pottery Neolithic, Aceramic Neolithic, Late Neolithic, Early/Middle/Late Chalcolithic, Early and Middle Bronze Ages, Geometric Iron Age, Archaic, Cypro-Classical, Hellenistic/Roman, Late Roman, Early/Middle/Late Byzantine, Frankish Medieval, Venetian, Ottoman, British Colonial, Modern.

It is important for archaeology to produce documentation of what has been discovered, and while this project has produced a series of publications the aim now is to bring a full Final Report for this phase of the project to completion. This season will continue with small scale excavation and systematic survey of the site and region, but a primary focus will be to analyse the remains previous seasons, including artefacts, ecofacts, architecture and museum collections. It is hoped that this and future seasons will help to understand the details of what has been discovered, uncover the missing pieces that remain to be found, and to provide a range of opportunities for students to experience the full archaeological process: from discovery, to recovery to analysis.