Why colonize? A case study of the early Neolithic Colonization of the island of Cyprus

Author(s): Alan Simmons

Year: 2017


Why humans colonize unoccupied lands, such as islands, has always intrigued scholars. Over the past few decades, researchers working on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus have documented both a Late Epipaleolithic occupation and a more substantial early Neolithic colonization episode. The number of such sites remains limited, but is growing with continuing research. For the Neolithic, both Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and PPNB occupations are now well-documented, and are as early as mainland sites. These defy earlier beliefs that the Mediterranean islands were not occupied until much later in the Neolithic. Most, but not all, sites are coastal, reflecting these new immigrants’ sea orientation. Thus, we now know that early colonization occurred, but the question of why this happened remains largely unanswered. This presentation first examines characteristic elements of early Cypriot Neolithic settlements. Then, from a circum-Mediterranean framework, it looks at reasons why colonization may have occurred in the first place, at a time when the greater region was undergoing major social and economic shifts. Issues such as over-population, resource stress, economic or religious opportunity, internal dissention, or simply the urge to explore are all addressed. Some of these topics are especially relevant given the current immigration crisis in the Mediterranean.

Cite this Record

Why colonize? A case study of the early Neolithic Colonization of the island of Cyprus. Alan Simmons. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429097)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15486