The transportation of mammals to Cyprus shed light on early voyaging and boats in the mediterranean sea

Jean-Denis Vigne (Corresponding Author), Antoine Zazzo, Thomas Cucchi, François Briois, Jean Guilaine

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-176
Number of pages20
JournalEurasian Prehistory
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

We would like thank the Wenner-Gren Foundation
and the organizers of the meeting held at Reggio
Calabria for inviting J.-D. Vigne to participate in the
Workshop. We also wish to thank all of the scientists
and excavators who contributed to the excavation and
study of the sites Shillourokambos, Throumbovounos,
and Klimonas. The French School at Athens and the
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported our stays
during the fieldwork and analysis of material in Cyprus.
The fieldwork and the analyses carried out by our team
has benefited from substantial support and funding
from the French Ministry of ForeignAffairs, the French
School at Athens, the CNRS (Site d’Etude en Ecologie
Globale “Limassol”), the Muséum national d’Histoire
naturelle (ATM Bodiversité) and the Department of
Antiquities, Cyprus. We are very grateful to Albert
Ammerman for fruitful discussion and for the English
edition of this text.


  • early navigation
  • pre-pottery Neolithic
  • island biogeography
  • archaezoology


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