Although the fact was unknown to Walters at the time, the 26 numbered tombs opened by the British Museum team in 1897 at their Site A belonged to a contemporary settlement which overlay the burial ground in a manner typical of many other Late Cypriot (LC) towns such as Enkomi and Episkopi-Bamboula. Over the years, various scholars suggested that the cemetery at what is now known as Tsaroukkas belonged to a Late Bronze Age (LBA) harbour community because of the large quantities of imported prestige goods and other wealthy grave offerings found in the tombs. No traces of the corresponding settlement were identified, however, until comparatively recently.
Archaeological survey and excavations led by Dr Sturt Manning of the University of Reading between 1990 and 1996 for the Maroni Valley Archaeological Survey Project (MVASP) revealed the remains of LBA domestic or artisanal structures dating to the 13th century BC, in addition to some 15 looted chamber tombs, some of which were probably among those previously opened by the British Museum team in 1897.
Despite the looted state of these tombs, careful recording of the surviving fragments revealed a wealth of information about their original contents and approximate date. Many of the items match those found in the BM tombs, including much imported Minoan and Mycenaean pottery, though examples of pottery fabrics discarded by Walters (such as plain or coarse wares) were also recovered along with typical LC finewares. An imported scarab dating to the Second Intermediate Period/ Levantine Middle Bronze IIB–C, contemporary with LC IA, was found in a deposit derived from another looted tomb, providing valuable additional evidence for the earliest external relations of the community.
Underwater survey just off the coast confirmed the important maritime role of the community in the LBA, through the discovery of many large stone anchors lost, or jettisoned, by ships arriving at the site. Several more were found during the excavations on land, reused as building materials. In addition was found a deposit of LC IA ceramic material (c. 1650–1550 BC) which was probably destined for export to the Levant and Egypt, while the fragments of Canaanite jars in the same sea-bed deposits were imported from the Levant during the same period of expanding commercial horizons. Both attest to the active involvement of the community in maritime trade as early as the 17th or 16th century BC, allowing us to identify the economic conditions in which the LBA settlement began to develop during this dynamic period of change on Cyprus.
This work also provided important evidence for the nature of the original coastline, which has retreated considerably since antiquity, no doubt eating away at the remains of the LBA settlement in the process. It is likely that a fairly large enclosed harbour or anchorage existed at Tsaroukkas, which became an important focus for the economic life of the region in the transformed conditions at the beginning of the period.
The MVASP also conducted intensive archaeological survey around Maroni to identify and map the remains of other ancient settlements, particular those contemporary with Tsaroukkas and Vournes, as a means of understanding the economic and social relationships between the various sites in the area.
At Tsaroukkas itself, a combination of field-walking, geophysical survey and excavation has revealed that the settlement spread over at least 20 hectares but does not appear to have extended as far as Vournes. Smaller scatters of archaeological material over the wider area suggest that that occupation in the area was fairly extensive. (Renewed fieldwork in the past few years has revealed further information about the extent and density of the site, so our understandning of the settlement is likely to change in the future).
Excavations took place in a number of areas, hampered throughout by the large numbers of trenches dug by previous visitors to the site, no doubt among them Cesnola, Walters and members of the local population. The remains of number of buildings were revealed as a result, the most important of which will now be summarised.
Building 1, for example, was a large, multi-roomed structure, some 20m x 20m in size, arranged around a central yard, possibly with an upper storey. The complex was built over an earlier burial ground, in some cases using the deliberately emptied tombs as foundation trenches for the walls. The tombs may have been the origin of sherds of Mycenaean pottery of earlier date than the buildings found during the excavations. The construction materials used were mostly rubble, with semi-cut stone employed for doorways and other more visible parts of the building. Small pithoi (jars) set in the floors of several rooms seem to be connected with storage or artisanal functions linked to the benches and platforms, which were found in the same area. Fragments of slag and other metallurgical remains, as well as numerous loom weights, hint at the nature of the building as a small industrial complex, perhaps connected with the nearby harbour. Several rooms had fine lime-plaster floors into which storage jars were set. According to the excavators, this suggested a special function related to the processing of liquids, perhaps olive oil.
Buildings of similar size and layout were identified using geomagnetic surveying instruments in other parts of the settlement. Trial excavations in Building 2 uncovered a plastered floor but also an unusual pebble-lined floor showing signs of burning or heating, overlain by a layer of metal slag, suggesting that the area was also used for metalworking. Stone tools found on the surface nearby may be linked to industrial grinding or fairly large-scale food preparation. The excavator argued on this basis that both buildings appear to have possessed fairly large-scale facilities for manufacturing, storage and, perhaps, administration. Although much more modest than the buildings at Maroni-Vournes, they are similar to structures found at other LC settlements, including the domestic areas of nearby Kalavasos-Ayios Dhimitrios mentioned above.
As noted above, Building 1 was erected around 1300 BC, in part over earlier chamber tombs, some of which appear to have been deliberately cleared of their contents to facilitate the operation. This practice, which has also been identified at Vournes (see below) has been linked with the expansion or reorganisation of the settlement during the economically dynamic LC IIC period, but also with changes in the political and ideological structures of the area. Older groups who for generations had buried their dead in the chamber tombs in this area began to lose power and status within society, perhaps as result of the rapid changes visible in the period, which, at other LC sites, are associated with urbanisation. It has even been suggested that their memory and status, enshrined by the chamber tombs, was deliberately erased by emerging new groups within society with no links to the older community structures.
Further excavation will be necessary to answer this, and other important questions, about the site’s evolving history, layout and function, particularly the relationship between the older burial ground and the industrial structures described above. No buildings have been discovered dating to before the 13th century BC, so we know little about the settlement inhabited by those buried in the older LC I–IIB chamber tombs or where these structures were located.