The Choirokoitia Neolithic Site is one of the most well-known prehistoric settlements in Cyprus - an impressive specimen of the earliest, organized human settlements.
Located by the foothills of Troodos mountains in the valley of the river Ayios Minas, the Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia is the best-preserved prehistoric settlement in Cyprus that date to the Late Aceramic Neolithic Age. Since 1998, it has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are many possible versions of how Choirokoitia got its name, but none is adequately testified.
The settlement was built about six kilometres away from the coast, on the slopes of a hill located on the western bank of Maroni River. To the west, where the settlement was not naturally enclosed, a thick enclosure wall was erected. The construction of the wall required a collective effort, something that shows the presence of a complex social organisation
Nevertheless, the construction of the dwellings in the Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia was quite simple. Having a circular shape, the basis was made of stones and of clay on top. The roof consisted of a wooden frame made of branches and reeds covered with clay. In the centre of each dwelling, there was a fireplace and a small opening for the smoke to come out. The thresholds were elevated, and the doors were small for flood protection. Most of the houses had a mezzanine floor, to possibly serve as storage space. The walls seemed to have been decorated with wall paintings but it’s hard to conclude whether the drawings were geometrical or figurative because they have faded over time.
The inhabitants were occupied primarily with agriculture and livestock to achieve food security. Due to location, seafood was a secondary source to their diet. Agriculture was mainly based on the cultivation of cereals, legumes and lentils, while the inhabitants’ diet was enriched with seeds harvested from wild trees, such as pistachios, figs, olives and plums. The inhabitants were also raising sheep, goats and pigs. In addition, they were making tools with pyrolite, limestone and bones that served them for food provision and their day-to-day activities.
The dead were buried in pits inside the dwelling units. The pits were then covered with soil and clay so that the ground of the house was restored. The graves were individual with the recumbent body usually turned to the right side. The body was contracted, and the degree of contractions seemed to vary according to the age of the dead. Even though different funeral gifts were with regards to the dead’s gender, it seems that shattered stone vessels were placed to everyone, regardless of their gender. Another funerary ritual was the placement of a rock, carved or not, at the top of the dead body. They believed that they blocked their return to the world of the living. Interesting is the fact that a place of worship has not been discovered in the area.
The estimated population of the settlement is 300 inhabitants. By investigating the skeletons, the archaeologists claim that the inhabitants were short (men were about 1.60cm tall, women were about 1.50cm) and were dying between the age of 25-40.
Choirokoitia, like other Aceramic settlements on the island, was suddenly abandoned. It is believed that it had been re-inhabited in the Ceramic Neolithic period, even though there’s no surviving architectural sign of the period in the site.
Today, five characteristic houses have been reconstructed near the site, using the same construction methods and materials used in the Neolithic times. The houses are fitted with replicas of household objects found inside the original ones to provide visitors a vivid representation of the village in the past. The vegetation around the replicas consists of native plants and trees that have grown in Cyprus since Neolithic times.
The site is open to visitors every day from 8:30-17:00 on Winter hours (16/9-15/4), and 8:30-19:30 on Summer hours (16/4-15/9).