Site Formation Processes at Akrotiri Aetokremnos, Cyprus: Why is the site so controversial?
Alan Simmons & Rolfe D. Mandel Στο M. Ghilardi, F. Leandri, J. Bloemendal, L. Lespez & S. Fachard (eds) 2016. Géoarchélogie des îles de Mediterranée, Paris: 57-72.
There have been numerous claims for pre-Neolithic occupations of many of the Mediterranean islands. Generally, these are not well supported by archaeological, chronological, and stratigraphic data. This changed with the excavation of Akrotiri Aetokremnos, a small collapsed rockshelter that has provided solid evidence of the earliest well- documented human presence on Cyprus. A large suite of radiocarbon ages indicates that the site was occupied around 12000 cal. BP, contemporary with the Late Epi-Paleolithic of the Near Eastern and Anatolian mainlands. Since Cyprus was not connected to the mainland by a landbridge during the Quaternary, Aetokremnos provides direct evidence for pre-Neolithic seafaring abilities. More controversial than the site’s age is the association of extinct endemic pygmy hippopotami with cultural materials, as this relates to the continuing discussion of human-caused Pleistocene extinctions. The claim of a direct association has been challenged, however, despite well-published archaeological and geoarchaeological data that support it. This paper summarizes the arguments for the association of cultural remains with pygmy hippopotami, specifically focusing on the site’s stratigraphic sequence, chronology, and formation processes. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that the remains of the pygmy hippopotami are in direct association with cultural features and artifacts that comprise the site’s two primary archaeological strata.