West KarkotisAtsasMandresAsinouKoutraphasLagoudheraEast
Iron Age 

4.16 Asinou: Medieval-Modern

Most evidence for occupation of the Asinou area during the Medieval-Modern periods was found along a stretch of the river where the valley sides become less steep for about 1km (TS03, TS08, TS12, TS17, TS19). This part of the valley lies around and immediately upstream of the late Byzantine church of Panayia Phorviotissa (TP030), which stands above the river, toward the end of a small spur.

TP030 Nikitari Kapsalia

The church was built, according to a dedicatory inscription, between 1099 and 1105/6 (Gibraltar et al. 1933; Stylianou and Stylianou 1985, 114). The original structure was built from rough-hewn stone set in mud mortar. This is a practice that became less common in the medieval period, when lime mortar was favoured (Winfield 1969, 5). The church is visible from most points within the surrounding area of occupation and exploitation.

A monastery was associated with the church from the 12th century until it was finally deserted in the 17th century (Hadjichristodoulou and Marianthefs 2002, 9-10; Stylianou and Stylianou 1985, 114). Structural, pottery and geophysical evidence suggest that it stood about 100m further up the spur, to the south of the church (TP117).

TP117 Nikitari Kapsalia

Three ruined, stone-built structures lay across the spur. Resistivity survey about 30m downslope tentatively identified another 15 x 6m structure with an entrance in the north side. There was considerable evidence of occupation from the Medieval to Modern periods, although it probably ended during the Ottoman period. Patches of the lichen Rhizocarpon tinei on some of the stones indicated that they had not been disturbed for about 300 years.

The area covered by resistivity survey produced a wide range of Medieval-Modern table ware and cooking ware, as well as heavy and light utility vessels. This suggests a habitation site whose occupants were cooking, eating and storing.

There may also have been some light industry, possibly the small-scale production of olive oil. A fragment of a gabbro grinding stone of the sort used for crushing olives was found in this area. Two domesticated olive trees that were at least 300 years old stood just to the south, between the pottery and the structures.

The church and the monastery were at the core of a monastic estate (Stylianou and Stylianou 1985, 114-17). There is considerable evidence of occupation and exploitation of local resources by monks and estate workers in the area. Despite the absence of structural remains, occupation is indicated by a comprehensive assemblage of tile, cooking ware, table ware, heavy utility ware and light utility ware recorded in terraced orchards below the church (TS08). The landscape was cultivated as intensively as possible, with every available patch put to use. A series of check dams (TS19) occupied several gullies to the south-east of the monastery, and lichen dating indicates they were established and in use during the Ottoman period.

There was another focus of occupation some 700m upstream in agricultural fields near Khalospities (TS12). The surface stability suggests that the dense and diverse domestic pottery assemblage was in situ, and that the vestigial remains of Ayios Ioannis church (TP039) are all that survives of a Medieval-Modern settlement.

Structural evidence survived on either side of the river above Khalospities at Pera Yitonia (TP061) and in Asinou village (TS03). The preservation of some of these structures, as well as the small amount of pottery recovered, suggests that these were later settlement foci, perhaps replacing Khalospities in response to a changing economy or a change in the course of the river. Both areas were occupied in the 20th century and Asinou was not finally abandoned until the 1950s.

TP061 Nikitari Pera Yitonia

Pera Yitonia (TP061) consisted of at least three well-spaced complex structures toward the nose of a spur that descended steeply to the Asinou River. The walls were stone built with mud bonding and pottery chinking, which included coarse Ottoman-Modern wares. The buildings ranged from derelict to completely ruined, but it was clear that all were aligned with their long axis along the contour, across the spur, facing south-east across the valley.

Between the structures were terraced areas, the largest of which were divided by lines of loose rubble or surface clearance. These were perhaps arable plots rather than animal pens. At least three threshing floors were built into the hill slope on the periphery of a cluster of structures.

Asinou village (TS03) stood on a knoll to the south of the river. It was larger than Pera Yitonia and was made up of an integrated group of structures most of which showed signs of reuse, recycling, rebuilding and reoccupation. They were mostly built with mud brick on stone socles, and the pottery suggested an intensive period of occupation during the 18th and 19th centuries. Threshing floors (TP016) were built on the edges of the central cluster of buildings to catch the breezes blowing up and down the valley.

Occupation of the upper valley was not restricted to reoccupation of the Hellenistic-Roman sites at Trimitheri (TP220) and Khalospita (TP250): larger settlements were also established. At Nikitari Mutallia an overgrown and derelict settlement (TP125) with a church (TP124) stood on a low ridge close to where tracks and a river crossing converged.

TP125 Nikitari Mutallia

Several poorly preserved, multi-roomed structures made up the settlement at Mutallia (TP125). The remains were located among forestry planting, and all were very overgrown. A circular structure among the remains was probably an oven. According to oral historical information, it was used as a winter settlement for shepherds from Spilia, although the date of this is unclear.

The church of Ayios Yeorgios (TP124) stood to the south of the settlement, close to the end of the low ridge. The area around it had been kept clear, although a well-established pine grew within its walls. The church measured 12 x 5m; the walls stood up to 1m in height, consisting of four or five courses of stonework. There were some signs of recent use of the church. A small plastic icon lay on the ground, and a headscarf, still in good condition, hung from the tree within the walls.

On the opposite, western, bank at Nikitari Mandres tous Jerenides (TP038) stood four structures, marked on the cadastral plan as sheep folds. No pottery was recorded at either settlement, but the level of decay suggested that two of the structures at Mandres tous Jerenides were from the Ottoman-Modern periods, while the other two and the settlement at Mutallia were older, perhaps medieval in date.

Other evidence for small-scale occupation of the mountain was found at Nikitari Palaeomandres, where a two-roomed structure (TP048) stood above a major communication route out of valley, between Ayios Theodhoros and Asinou. Exploitation of forest resources was evident some 700m south-east along the path in the remains of two pitch kilns (TP105).

There is considerable further evidence for occupation in the mountains and foothills on the margins of the Asinou area, which includes villages (TP031, TP066, TS14), churches (TP249), and smaller, single structure settlements (TP241, TP255).