West KarkotisAtsasMandresAsinouKoutraphasLagoudheraEast
Iron Age 

4.7 Atsas Valley: Hellenistic/Roman

The distribution of Hellenistic-Roman Pottery shows a clear preference for alluvial terraces close to the Atsas River and its main tributary in the north-west. The densities are moderately low, with the exception of the block survey carried out round two Roman farmsteads.

The farmstead at Vrysi tou Hadjichristophi (TP202) takes its modern locality name from the strikingly green spring 40m to its south-east.

TP202 Linou Vrysi tou Hadjichristophi

The earliest specifically dated material round Vrysi tou Hadjichristophi was three Late Hellenistic/Early Roman sherds, but it is only in the Late Roman period that there are substantial quantities. The densest survey units were on the eastern edge of the farmstead and between that and the stream, with 15.1 and 9.0 sherds per 100m² respectively. On the other sides the density was between 1 and 4 sherds per 100m², and there was nothing beyond 50m from the farmstead.

The tile count was substantial, peaking at 70 fragments in one survey unit, and its distribution pattern was identical to that of the Hellenistic to Roman pottery. They all have parallels in the Late Roman material from Skouriotissa.

The structures lie on a small rocky spur above the stream. One is clearly rectangular, c. 8 x 6m, with another less clear structure immediately north of it. The material culture includes water pipes, transport amphorae of types seen across the survey area, large numbers of tile fragments, and a Late Roman spouted mortarium (TCP690). There is a variety of Early and Late Roman table wares, mostly Cypriot Red Slip Ware but also some Phocaean and African fragments.

Between the two structures is a large gabbro millstone 95cm in diameter with a square socket 11cm wide and 5cm deep. Some volcanic and basalt quern fragments and a stone mortarium are evidence for the grinding and pounding of foodstuffs.

Vrysi tou Haji Christophi is our best example of a Roman farmstead, as defined by the extant architecture, the pottery, the millstone, and the halo of material round it (Pettegrew 2001). It was clearly a relatively small working unit based on one or two structures, and presumably produced olive oil and perhaps cereals and other crops.

The farmstead is surrounded by a classic 'halo' pattern of material derived from dumping and/or manuring in the area immediately round the farmstead, falling off within 50m to areas which were either uncultivated or else cultivated with little or no manuring (cf. Bevan 2002; Pettegrew 2001). This shows a relatively restricted zone of intense activity, focused tightly on the two-structure farmstead situated on its small knoll: cultivating, milling olives, eating, dumping household waste and perhaps manure on the adjacent fields, fetching water from the spring.

A second farmstead at Phoukasa (TP221) lies 950m north-west of Vrysi tou Haji Christophi, with two springs nearby and a large circular water cistern. The more substantial Roman settlement of Lithosourka (TP216) lies above the north-east bank of the Atsas River, 750m north of Haji tou Christophi and 800m east of Phoukasa.

The Hellenistic to Roman pottery distribution across the Atsas area shows the greatest concentrations at the two farmsteads. There is also a light scatter round Lemonas, peaking at 2.4 sherds per 100m² close to the settlement. This is a similar picture to the Iron Age, and suggests a long-lived settlement under the ruined houses of Lemonas.

The pottery that can be dated more precisely tends towards Late Roman rather than Hellenistic or Early Roman. Other than this there is a very light scatter of Hellenistic-Roman pottery in the west of the Atsas area: eight survey units have very light scatters of less than 0.5 sherds per 100m², and another reaches 2.9. Given that this area is very dissected by gully erosion, this might be the results of later erosion, or it could possibly suggest non-intensive agriculture in that general area.

One of the most distinctive features of the north-west of the Atsas area is the abundance of red jasper outcrops in the pillow basalt. Two of these produced abundant, high-quality red jasper, and were clearly quarries and workshops for producing flakes, blanks and tools (TP236; TP237). These workshops represent an entire chaine opératoire of tool production, from cores to flakes to tiny debitage. Occasional flakes and cores were found across the rest of the whole area (TP206, TP207).

These stone-knapping activities cannot yet be dated securely because of a lack of typological specificity. The technical practices, however, particularly in creating and working the cores, are consistent with a range of known Roman-period activity areas, such as the Phoukasa farmstead (TP221).

It is clear that people in the Atsas area were cultivating in an organised but not very intensive way. There are similar networks of farmsteads in the hinterland of Roman Kourion (Swiny and Mavromatis 2000), and in the wide alluvial plain and smaller valleys round Roman Tamassos (Given and Knapp 2003, 199-200, 310). This contrasts with the much more continuous and intensive cultivation of the Karkotis Valley.

Judging by its proximity and the easy communication route, people regularly travelled to and exchanged goods with the city-kingdom of Soloi on the coast 10km to the north-west (des Gagniers and Tinh 1985). A major role they presumably played was to produce food to support the miners and metalworkers at Skouriotissa (TS01). The presence of a medium-sized village at Lithosourka suggests that they were intermediaries in a hierarchical system of exchange, who redistributed food onwards either to Soloi or possibly directly to Skouriotissa.