Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


2 February 2016

Akrotiri-Aetokremnos (Cyprus) 20 years later: an assessment of its significance

Alan H. Simmons A.J. Ammerman & T. Davis (eds), Island Archaeology and the Origins of Seafaring in the Eastern Mediterranean, Eurasian Prehistory 10 (1-2) (2013): 139-156


Over the years, there have been many claims for pre-Neolithic sites on many of the Mediterranean islands. These generally have not been supported by robust data sets. This changed with the interdisciplinary investigation of Akrotiri Aetokremnos, a small collapsed rockshelter on the southern coast of Cyprus. The site is well dated to the Late Epipaleolithic (ca. 12,000 cal. BP) by a strong suite of radiocarbon determinations, it has excellent context with well-defined stratigraphy, and it has an artifact assemblage that, at the time of excavation, was unique in Cyprus. All of these criteria are necessary for demonstrating a defensible human presence.

One of the most controversial aspects of Aetokremnos was our claim for a human association with the endemic Cypriot pygmy hippopotamus. This had not previously been demonstrated, and considerable debate ensued related to our contention that humans were at least partially implicated in the extinction of these unique animals. In this contribution, the significance of Aetokremnos is put into a broader context and some of the issues related to the controversy surrounding the site are addressed. These relate specially to stratigraphy, chronology, artifacts, cutmarks, and taphonomy. I conclude by affirming the integrity of Aetokremnos and our interpretation of the site.



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