Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


3 February 2016

The transportation of mammals to Cyprus sheds light on early voyaging and boats in the Mediterranean Sea

Jean-Denis Vigne, Antoine Zazzo, Isabella Carrère, François Briois & Jean Guilaine A.J. Ammerman & T. Davis (eds), Island Archaeology and the Origins of Seafaring in the Eastern Mediterranean, Eurasian Prehistory 10 (1-2) (2013): 157-176


Our interest here is in studying the history of the relationships between human being and animals on islands for reconstructing prehistoric voyaging and boats. The chapter aims to examine how the considerable amount of new evidence that archaeozoology has accumulated over the two last decades on Cyprus can throw new light in the Eastern Mediterranean on the poorly known questions of the intensity and the capabilities of early seafarers in the time between 12,500 and 9,000 cal. BP. It first revisits the paleogeographical framework of Cyprus in the light of recent geographical and geological approaches. In particular, it addresses the question of the presence of stepping stone islets between Cyprus and the mainland at the end of the Late Glacial. Then, it presents a brief review of the archaeozoological data, peculiarly those from the early sites of Aetokremnos, Klimonas and Shillourokambos. They indicate a marked increase of the immigration rate of mammals, which begins in the 13th millennium BP and culminated during the first half of the 10th millennium BP (the time of the Middle PPNB).

Based on this scenario and on the biological constraints that are connected with the transportation by boat of large ruminants and with the evolution of mice in island conditions, we conclude that voyagers, in all likelihood, constituted separate and specialized human groups. Starting from 10,500 cal. BP at least and probably going back to 11,000 BP, they were controlling the voyages being made between the mainland and Cyprus so well that they were able to cross the sea several times each year and to cope with the difficult problem of the transportation of large ruminants. This implies that the boats in use were already much more sophisticated than one suspected before. They were likely sailing boats, fast and big enough for transporting weaned calves standing in the boat.



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