Maria Rosaria Belgiorno
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The Pyrgos territory
The geological landscape of Pyrgos territory is formed by mineral morphologies composed by many litho-outcrops. The region is positioned where the Troodos Ophiolite complex joins the Circum Troodos Sedimentary Succession.
Its formation goes back to the middle/upper Cretaceous, starting with the most ancient Arakapas Ophiolite Sequence, while the last formations of the sedimentary levels slip back to the upper Miocene. The Pyrgos plateau extending among the lowest Troodos slopes, are formed by igneous rocks and characteristic Troodos Ophiolite as Olivine, Pyroxenes, Malachite etch, as well as Serpentine and Gabbros, all exploitable for the production of iron and copper metals.
The millenary erosion made by the very aggressive waters of the numerous seasonal streams of the region is particularly marked on the low hills around Pyrgos. In the deep cuttings left by the water running the mineral outcrops of copper and iron surface, specially the famous “pillow lava” veins.
The sedimentary zone named “Monì formation” from the name of the village, two km. far from Pyrgos, mainly composed by quartziferous sandstone and serpentine in clay matrix, surfaces in the small valley where the different streams stick together forming the small river named Pyrgos and Monì as the modern villages. Chalky marnes and calcarenite rocks of the upper Miocene mainly form the seacoast, distant only 4 kilometres. The alluvial cone of the Monì and Pyrgos rivers contributed to shape the eastern coastline of Limassol Gulf. The hinterland of Pyrgos territory is characterized by the last low hills of the huge Troodos massive, which only in that point reach the coastline.
The hill named Mavroraki
, at the West of the modern village was in the Bronze Age the hearth of the settlement, dividing the inhabited area from the mines territory. An ancient tunnel excavated to exploit the copper minerals is still visible in the side wall of the river bed 500 metres far from the back of the hill. This is not an exception because the copper minerals crop out for kilometres along the coastal strip, and the mines opened in ancient and recent times form a sort of chain which run from the mines of Kalavassos till Amathus, which has been one of the most famous and ancient ports of Cyprus. The survey of the region made from 1994 to 1997 has allowed to find the entrance of many abandoned galleries, not all indicated on the geological maps elaborated al the beginning of 20th
century. Fragments of pottery going back to the Archaic, Hellenistic and Roman period, scattered on the soil, document the systematic exploitation of these mineral resources for centuries.
The central position of the Middle Bronze Age Pyrgos settlement in the hearth of this mineral district allow us to think that the people who inhabited the zone exploited the same mineral resources since the beginning of Bronze Age. Eventually it was not only the copper which suggested to the people to settle here, but the abundance of water brought down by the numerous streams which form the Pyrgos and the Monì and make this valley particularly fertile. We should not forget that the abundance of water played in antiquity the most important role for every domestic and industrial activity. In turn, the “Limassol Forest”, which characterizes the inland landscape of the region, produced at the time plentiful combustible to fuel pyrotechnological activities as for metallurgy and for pottery.
The importance of the region as industrial pole in later periods is well known. After the beginning of the 1 millennium BC, the harbour of Amathunte became operative regulating enormous overseas trade traffic, based mainly on the copper exploited in the region. This important role was inherited after the medieval time by the modern Limassol harbour, which to day is the first maritime emporium of Cyprus.
In the Medieval period the geological and geographical peculiarities of the region, suitable for industrial activities, called the attention of the Cistercians monks, who founded in Pyrgos a monastery in the XII century. From the Christopher Schabel recently published paper on the Cistercians at Cyprus, we learn that “Pyrgos” the actual name of the village, doesn’t probably refer to a destroyed architectural monument, but to the popular Greek transformation of the Latin name “Peregus”, which the village had in 1225. The Cistercian system to organise a urban centre capturing the water, using long-way channels, was utilised by the Pyrgos inhabitants till 50 years ago, when the Cistercian channels bordering the houses were substituted by the English aqueduct in 1954 (date impressed on the cement of public fountains).
Ignoring the Cistercian history, the today villagers believe that the name of Pyrgos comes from the “Pyrgui Righena” (the legendary queen), a sort of gallery or cave deeply sunk in the local havara and located in the very centre of the ancient “chorio”, where runs the “Righena odòs”. Today its entrance has been unfortunately closed, but the people’s memory remembers that the “Pirgui” had a large entrance and was furnished with a staircase going down into a sub terrain road used by the queen (Righena) to reach in the night (on a gold chariot) her lover in Amathunte. If the “Pirgui” was the entrance of a secret gallery used for private affairs, or the “dromos “of a monumental tomb, or the main Cistercian channel which collected the water coming from the large stone ashlars cistern at the North of the village with the basilica (partially included in the church of the modern cemetery), or the entrance of an ancient copper mine, we will never know, as it was sealed definitively in 1994, under a cement carpet to built a private garage. This has hidden forever the monument that, by popular tradition, gave the name to the village.
After the year 1500 we find Pyrgos among the few refered geographical points of southern Cyprus (like Amathunte, Polemidhia, Episkopi and Erimi), on the geographical and nautical maps, indicated by the symbol of a monastery.
Probably the first occupation of the site goes back as far as the end of the Chalcolithic period, when the first inhabitants settled in the area between the modern village and the hill of Mavroraki (Belgiorno), enlarging gradually their settlement till the Middle Bronze Age when it occupied an extension of more than 25 hectares.
A sequence of seismic events linked probably with other calamities forced the inhabitants to abandon the site around 1800 BC.
The people of the beginning of 1st millennium BC who reoccupied after centuries the site didn’t possess any memory of the prehistoric village and decided to build their houses on the location of the Early and Middle Bronze Age cemetery ignoring the presence of the tombs. The foundations of their houses have been reused for numberless times in the following periods and form to day the hearth of the ancient “choriò”. Geometric, archaic, Hellenistic and roman remains scattered everywhere and reused in buildings, together with a number of inscribed funerary cippi used as embellishment in private gardens, and pottery of different periods sparse everywhere testify the uninterrupted life of the village till to day. But, in recent times, the Pyrgos story seems linked more to the abundance of water resources than to the strategic position between the sea and the rich in copper Troodos slopes. In the last ten years the lucky position of the village on the confluence of Pyrgos and Monì streams, granting the fuel of water even in dry summer periods, has transformed the small traditional “choriò” to one of the most luxurious residential quarters nearby Limassol, which is quickly cancelling the evidence of the past.
We must go back to 1940 to find in the register book of the Department of Antiquities the first notice of an Early Bronze Age tomb occasionally discovered under a house of the village, but we know that even before that date, the systematic looting of the tombs provided for years materials for the antiquary market. As the prehistoric pottery of Cyprus follows in style regional fashions, it is possible to suppose the provenance from Pyrgos area of many vases made in the characteristic south coast style, registered as without provenance in public and private worldwide collections.
In the last thirty years the rescue excavations of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus saved many important tomb outfits that have permitted to locate the distribution and the position of the Pyrgos Early-Middle Bronze Age cemetery (Karageorghis), and helped the discovery of a settlement in 1995 (Belgiorno).
Even if the excavations in the settlement of Pyrgos/Mavroraki are limited to a small area from residential buildings the discovery of copper industrial remains in the prehistoric inhabited area, summed with the rich material coming from the tombs will help the knowledge of the social level of the people who settled in the Pyrgos valley during the Early and Middle Bronze Age. Probably a community of some significance involved in the fabric of the most required products of the time as copper objects, perfumes and balsams made with olive oil and textiles dyed in vivid colours.
Most important for the location of the settlement and the understanding of the Pyrgos role as industrial site in Bronze Age Cyprus, was the discovery of the Tomb n.21, to the North of the village, believed to belong to a coppersmith, with 13 different copper objects and the stone tools to work the copper found in it.
As the tools of Pyrgos Tomb n.21 belonged to the final phase of metal working (hammering, cleaning and polishing the objects), this had suggested the presence in the area of a copper workshop connected with the mineral resources of the surrounding territory. After years the results of the survey, of the soundings and of the excavation in the area of Mavroraki 300 meters West from the T.21 demonstrate that the hypothesis were right (Belgiorno).
Considering the actual excavated sector and the peculiar industrial aspect of the site, the evidence found at Pyrgos could be divided in different thematic; these are the stone industry, the pottery, the metallurgy of the copper (presents in all the phases of the process), the production of the olive oil (and the technology to obtain it), the perfume industry (related to the extraction of the essences using olive oil), the textile industry and the colours to dye them.