Cascadia Druids: White Mountain Druid Sanctuary Blog

White Mountain Druid Sanctuary (WMDS) is a Druid inspired Pagan site in Trout Lake, Washington. This blog describes the planning and creation of the Stone Circle, Shrines and physical surroundings that are being built there.

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The Archaeology of Cyprus

During the winter months, it can be difficult to find things to write about for White Mountain Druid Sanctuary because it is buried under snow and frozen ground.  However, Kirk Thomas, who is creating WMDSanctuary, has found an archaeological tour company in the Mediterranean that he really likes.  He has written several Facebook posts about the history of Cyprus, so I'm going to post those here.

First post

The Archaeology of Cyprus

So my tour in Cyprus really began today, and we visited our first two sites, plus a museum. Photos will commence in later posts as I report on my travels here.

Cyprus has been a crossroads for this part of the Mediterranean for millennia. There was a vibrant Neolithic culture here, which disappeared for a couple of hundred years (like on Malta) but was eventually replaced by a new culture in the Copper and Bronze Ages.

They had a strong trade with Bronze Age Ugarit and the rest of those 'empires', such as the Mycenaeans, Hittites, and Egyptians.

When that all collapsed it would appear that Cyprus hung on a bit and transitioned into the Iron Age (like everyone else around there) until they were conquered by the Phoenicians in the 9th century, followed by the Assyrians, and then the Persians.

During this time the great city states came into being, and these were ruled by local elites and kings under their conquerors. It was after Alexander the Great's death when Ptolemy took over Egypt and Cyprus that the local kings were suppressed (either killed or driven to suicide, I read).

This period ended with the Roman conquest, and after the western Empire fell Cyprus was part of the Byzantine Empire until the Crusades. After the Knights of Malta and others like them Cyprus was conquered by the Ottomans, and after the First World War fell to the British.

Cyprus became independent after the Second World War but in the 1970's the northern part of the island was conquered by the Turks to forestall a coup that would have made the island part of Greece. They're still divided to this day.

 First day of tour, April 11, 2019

Khirokitia

The Neolithic in Cyprus is divided into two main parts, the Aceramic Neolithic (7000-5000 BCE, before they had invented pottery), the Ceramic Neolithic (4500-4000 BCE, with pottery), and the Chalcolithic (4000-2400 BCE, which is when copper began to be used along with stone).

The site at Khirokitia is from the Aceramic phase, and is all the more remarkable for that. This site closely resembles a large walled village, and was continuously occupied for centuries. The place is full of 'houses', called 'tholoi' (singular, 'tholos') by the archaeologists, which is a better term because they might not have been houses after all. In about 80% of them there were human burials under the floors. Lots of them. In each tholos.

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Building foundations in the east part of the village

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More foundations in the east part

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Reconstructions in the Archaeological Park

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 Another reconstruction to show how they were built

The settlement is actually quite large. When you look at the map you will see how little has actually been excavated so far. At the end of the Aceramic period, however, all of the sites, including Khirokitia, were abandoned. After a few hundred years of apparent nothingness, remains from the Ceramic period can be found around the island.

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Map of the site. The green is the greatest extent of the village. the orange and yellow are the parts that have been excavated.

Since they didn't have pottery they made bowls and other utensils out of stone (see photo). They even carved some very simple figurines out of river stones.

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A stone bowl (and my foot for size comparison)

And they built a rather impressive wall around most of the settlement (except where there was an escarpment which provided its own protection). Even more impressive is the entrance to the site. Instead of just an opening in the wall, you had to climb a couple of steps, make a hard left turn and climb many more steps, make a hard right turn with more steps, and find yourself facing a large tholos which forced you to make a right turn yet again to enter the site. Why this was done is unknown. There is no evidence of fighting, no weapons, arrow heads, or evidence of burning, so warfare isn't an obvious answer. Perhaps the twisty entrance was to keep domesticated animals out? In any case, it certainly marked out a boundary of some kind.

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Looking down the reconstruction of the entry to the village.

Some of the tholoi had massive stone columns inside of them, far more than needed to hold up a roof. In the reconstruction you can see that they might have held a sort of mezzanine, for a bed? Or maybe for storage?

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This reconstructed building is modeled on one of the first ones you see when you enter the actual site. Note the large columns holding up a mezzanine. Is this a sleeping loft? A storage place? Or a place to lay out the dead?

But there is also another possible explanation for all this.  Could Khirokitia be a City of the Dead? Perhaps the village walls were to mark out sacred space. Maybe the 'mezzanines' were where a body would be laid out before being buried? In some cases, the doors to the tholoi were walled up. Perhaps this one was 'full'?

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In a reconstructed tholos, there is an image of a burial in the floor.

Another possibility is that the place was both a living settlement and a place of the dead. Keeping your mighty ancestors with you might have been very comforting. But we may never know.

 

 

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We are Cascadia Grove of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). Our local Grove serves the Puget Sound area. We meet 8 times a year to celebrate the equinoxes, solstices and the cross quarter days (including Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain). We also support the planning and building of White Mountain Druid Sanctuary in Trout Lake WA.
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