Numerous cemeteries and settlements of EBA and MBA date are known from the Kourion region. These are found in the main river valley, where they flank the route up to the Troodhos, and in the lesser drainages further west, which seem to have been as densely populated as the Kouris itself.
There is also evidence for continuity from the preceding Chalcolithic period at some sites, which, together with other signs, suggests a gradual transition between the two phases. The two periods are bridged by associations with the so-called Philia culture, which has been recognised at a number of sites in the Kourion area, such as Sotira-Kaminoudhia. The Philia phase is still not fully understood, but is noteworthy for the introduction of new pottery types, metallurgical techniques and economic practices (especially farming methods), possibly introduced from Anatolia by new settlers or traders, all of which underlie developments in the EBA.
The EBA and MBA on Cyprus are characterised by the increase in the number and dispersal of small villages with mixed agricultural economies throughout most of the island. Cemeteries of chamber tombs situated outside of the settlement areas, often in prominent locations on hillsides, become widespread for the first time, in comparison with the previous practice of intramural burial. The dead were accompanied by numerous grave goods including many pottery vases – often of elaborate shapes or reflecting the existence of funerary feasting and other ceremonial activities – and simple copper or bronze tools and personal items. Some tombs increased in size and spatial or architectural complexity, particularly from Early Cypriot (EC) III onwards, and were provided with multiple chambers and side-niches to facilitate larger numbers of burials over successive generations.
This suggests a more highly organised burial ritual and greater concern with creating organised spaces for the dead. This, in turn, has been related to the growth of social complexity and, perhaps, greater inequality between social groups. Throughout the island, there are regional traditions of fine pottery production, the most familiar being Red Polished vessels from the north, centre and east of Cyprus, together with local variants on the south coast (including the Kourion area) called Red Polished South Coast and Drab Polished Blue Core wares.
Two sites in particular in the Kourion area have been fairly extensively explored and illustrate the trends mentioned above: Sotira-Kaminoudhia and Episkopi-Phaneromeni. The material from the settlement and cemetery of Phaneromeni is comparable to the earliest finds excavated by the British Museum at Episkopi-Bamboula, located but a short distance away. Sotira-Kaminoudhia, close to the Neolithic site of Teppes mentioned above, was a small settlement of simple, irregularly shaped houses of about 1 hectare in extent, served by several small burial grounds of chamber tombs and simpler cist graves cut into the bedrock located approximately 100m from the settlement. The site was occupied from the Philia phase of the Late Chalcolithic and continued in use until the end of the EC period, all in all between c. 2500–2000/1900 BC.
The site is interesting because it is one of the few settlements of this period to be excavated and published in detail, revealing extensive traces of domestic and artisanal life, including many stone tools and gaming stones found in situ in the houses or workshops. Simple tools and knives (or ‘daggers’), found in both domestic and funerary contexts, were made of various copper-based metals.
The earliest material from the British Museum excavations, found in a number of tombs with Red Polished pottery vessels and spindle whorls of EC III to early Middle Cypriot (MC) date found in the southern part of Episkopi-Bamboula (Site D), belong to the same period as the cemeteries of Episkopi-Phaneromeni located approximately 0.8km to the south-east. No details were recorded of the tomb type or burial customs of the British Museum graves of this period, but the later University of Pennsylvania excavations here also discovered at least one EC burial (Tomb 1) under the enclosing wall of the LBA settlement (see below), together with other EC–MC remains. This material, along with the remains of similar date discovered within Episkopi village in 1964, suggests a fairly widely dispersed settlement in the lower Kouris valley at this time.
The tombs at Phaneromeni (in Areas C and J) were rather more complex than those at Kaminoudhia, including multiple chambers, subsidiary niches – perhaps intended for children – and long entrance passages in a number of examples. Apart from a poorly documented settlement area dating to the MC period to the north of these burials, the main evidence for domestic life at Phaneromeni is much later then the burials, dating to the LC IA period; however, another settlement area, which has not been excavated, is known in a different part of the site, which may have been used at an earlier stage.
The architecture and material is broadly similar to that of Kaminoudhia, suggesting a relatively modest domestic economy. The presence of small quantities of pottery imported from other parts of the island provides vital evidence both for trade within the island and for chronological relationships, since the local pottery continues to adhere to the local ‘south coast’ tradition and is more difficult to date in the absence of Carbon-14 dates.