Tatlısu-Çiflikdüzü (Akanthou) Excavation and Research Project

The site of Tatlısu-Çiftlikdüzü, also known as Akanthou-Arkosykos, is located on the north coast of Cyprus, and has been dated to Early Aceramic Neolithic or Cypro-PPNB/MPPNB, with calibrated carbon dates of 8300–7600 BC. It has been revealed as one of the most important early Aceramic Neolithic settlement sites in Cyprus. Rescue excavation began in 1999 to assess the site and preserve it from agricultural damage and threats from erosion and construction. A wider landscape of Neolithic land use has been identified through field and geophysical survey. The settlement site and surrounding area are now protected as registered monuments. Further work to assess impacts and damage to the archaeological record are being undertaken to ensure sites are protected. 


The excavation has revealed five phases of settlements, spanning an estimated 700-year time period. Most notably, the best surviving settlement phase was represented by six buildings of stone and mud brick architecture with round and rectilinear features, painted plastered walls and plaster floors. The buildings respect a wide ditch to the South, which cut through the limestone bedrock. All six buildings were built upon a wide and uniform surface of crushed limestone quarried and spread from the ditch. This formed both a foundation and an outside floor with open areas where hearths, ovens and plaster lined basins were found between the buildings. The ditch was used as a rubbish tip and contained hundreds of individual deposits reflecting the accumulated disposal of material reflecting the life of a sedentary community, with evidence of trade, exploitation of marine life, domesticated plants and a variety of domestic and semi-domesticated animals.
Surface survey and testing of pits caused by agricultural damage as well as geophysical survey indicates further ditches, buildings, surfaces and settlement use over a 200m x 300m area. This makes Tatlisu a very substantial Neolithic settlement, with the rescue excavation representing less than 1% of the estimated settlement area.

First Farmers

Archaeobotanical assessment reveals that agriculture was part of the subsistence strategy at Tatlısu. The inhabitants cultivated at least two varieties of wheat (cf. einkorn and cf. emmer) and lentil. Abundant grinding stones and hand mills found on the site, together with cereal remains mainly consisting of spikelets-the cleaning residues of grains-indicate that food production was an important part of the daily life. Additionally, the identifiable crops found on the site are not endemic to Cyprus, indicating that these plants were brought with the early settlers, and cultivated locally.  
Apart from the cultivars, wild plants that can be found locally on the island are also present. Among them, the Tatlısu inhabitants collected pistachio, one of the principal fruit species in Neolithic period in Southwest Asia. There are also hackberries, and possible olive types found in the assemblage. The assessment concerning the scale and the nature of agriculture is still on going as part of the rescue evaluation.

Sea Faring and Fishing

It is apparent the Tatlısu Neolithic community were competent and frequent sea farers. The movement of Obsidian from Cappadocia and the nature of the sea currents between the Tatlisu coastline and Anatolia indicates travel and communication with the mainland by crossing the sea. Assessment of faunal remains indicates abundant vertebra of shark, tuna and some varieties of fish now extinct in the Mediterranean as well as the frequent presence of turtle. These are an indication that these were a popular food source and were effectively fished. Among the artefacts are fish hooks made of bone and possible net weights.

Hunting and Herding

Animal remains are present in large numbers with good conditions of preservation. The most abundant source of animal protein in the diet of the Tatlısu community was fallow deer, which was introduced from the mainland to Cyprus. It is likely fallow deer was hunted rather than domesticated. Sheep, goat, pig and cattle are present and are also known as ‘the Neolithic package’ and were seemingly already domesticated, used for milk, meat, hides and wool/hair. Bones of foxes, dogs and cats are present in small numbers among the animal remains, with all three species introduced from the mainland. The dog as a companion and welcome help for shepherds and hunters and cats most likely to control the mice, which were inadvertently brought to Cyprus as crop pests. The fox may have been a food or fur source or may have had a symbolic meaning as with certain communities in the Euphrates basin. Bones of birds are rather rare in the assemblage, implying fowling was less important to the community.

Human remains

A number of articulated and disarticulated human remains were recovered from contexts within the ditch. They are secondary deposits coming from buildings, mixed with building material and domestic debris. They are consistent with remains kept in houses, but the reasons for deposition within the ditch alongside domestic waste in unclear at this time. No intact burials were found in the rescue excavation. Further analysis of the recovered remains is on-going.

Transport of Obsidian

Assessment of the lithic findings show thousands of fragments of stone tools found at Tatlısu during excavation were made of the volcanic rock obsidian, much of which originates from Göllüdağ Mountain in Central Anatolia. Over 800 pieces of obsidian were collected from surface cleaning and topsoil removal alone. Obsidian is a glamorous raw material given its glasslike and shiny character, and was used for manufacturing a variety of tools during the Neolithic period and beyond. On the basis of the resource analysis, it is known that completed obsidian tools-mostly blades-were brought to Tatlısu from the Kaletepe-Kömürcü obsidian workshop, locating next to the Göllüdağ obsidian resources in Central Anatolia. These products were processed and manufactured by expert knappers, before transport to Tatlisu. The type of knapping is distinct compared to other examples known from Cyprus.

Obsidian distribution and trading/transport networks are one of the main subjects of interest for researchers studying the Neolithic period. The volume and type of obsidian found at Tatlısu helps demonstrate its importance as an archaeological site. Obsidian is present in all the identified settlement phases and in all contexts. Tatlısu obsidian artefacts are of particular importance in providing clues not only to assess overseas exchange and transport (through chemical analysis) but also the relationship the Neolithic settlers had with the mainland. The fact that obsidian tools were brought to the island in finished form and over an extensive time period points to advanced sea faring skills and community networks of the people of this period. 

Other Findings

Artefacts discovered during the rescue excavation and investigated by different experts, reflect in whole the cultural preferences and likes, living conditions and the prevalent economic life of the day. The full range of artefacts that have survived include personal belongings like beads and pendants made from animal bone, sea shells and various carved stones. Needles and fishing hooks made from animal bones as well as axes, points and cutting tools made from stone reflect a mixed hunting, gathering, fishing and harvesting subsistence. The artefacts shed light on the efficiency and effectiveness of the Tatlısu–Çiftlikdüzü community in comfortably living within their environment over a long period of time.
It is fortunate that any further damage to the site has now been prevented and that the potential of this unique site has been preserved as part of Cypriot Heritage. The surrounding landscape is now being surveyed to identify and protect further archaeological sites.

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