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Anthropology study on land use, herding in Bronze Age Cyprus

Alan Flurry

New research findings, the first comprehensive study of stable isotopes from both animal and plant remains on the island of Cyprus, expand the archaeological understanding of the dynamics of landscape management in Cyprus during the development of social complexity that led to the first cities on the Mediterranean island

The new study, led by UGA associate professor Suzanne E. Pilaar Birch with colleagues Patricia Fall, Steven Falconer, and Steven Porson from University of North Carolina Charlotte, Elizabeth Ridder from University of California, San Marcos, and Mary Metzger, Vancouver Community College, was published Oct. 26 in PLOS ONE.  

The paper presents an innovative study of landscape use and herding practices at the Bronze Age archaeological site of Politiko-Troullia, located in Cyprus. The village was a hub for specialized copper processing in the foothills of the Troodos mountains whose inhabitants participated in community-scale feasting on wild fallow deer (Dama dama mesopotamica). The study features the interpretation of osteological and stable isotope data from animal bones as compared with environmental baselines inferred from isotopic analysis of archaeological seeds and modern cultivated plants.  

"One of the most exciting aspects of this research is that we were able to bring together multiple strands of evidence, including data from years of archaeological excavation and research carried out at the site, the identification and analysis of animal bones and plant remains from the site, radiocarbon dating, and the isotopic analysis of plants and animal bones, to shed light on past economies," Birch said. "The site itself dates to a very dynamic period just prior to the development of urban centers in Cyprus, and can help us understand some of the dynamics that led to the growth of early cities that can possibly be applied to a much broader geographic range."

Birch and her co-authors currently have two National Science Foundation grants exploring how agricultural societies coped with climate and environmental change during this time across the Mediterranean. The study stands as the first comprehensive study of stable isotopes from both animal and plant remains on the island of Cyprus and sets a precedent for that future work.  

Read the full study.

Image: Figure 1 from the study. Map of Cyprus showing locations of Bronze Age sites (triangles), including Politiko-Troullia, and Neolithic sites (circles) mentioned in text.

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