The history and culture of the Neolithic settlement of Khirokitia, one of the most important prehistoric sites of Cyprus and of the eastern Mediterranean was revived on March 8, during a screening of an original documentary by filmmaker Elena Maroulleti at the Stathakion Cultural Center in Astoria, NY.
Organized by CYPRECO of America from its ongoing folk art series which highlight during each new production different aspects of the rich heritage, folklore, culture and history of Cyprus, the successful event was attended by Greek and Greek-Cypriot Americans and members of the general audience of all ages, including dignitaries and representatives from the Greek and Cypriot governments.
The evening’s program also included a performance of traditional Cypriot dances and songs from the youth division of the Lampousa Cyprus Association. The participating children whose ages range from 5 to 12, traveled to New York from Bergenfield New Jersey to participate in the event and their performance truly enthused the audience. The youth division of Lampousa, is part of the association’s mission of educating younger generations about the culture, history and folklore of Cyprus so that they can continue the association’s mission when they grow up, explained Stavros Kamilaris, President of Lampousa. Kamilaris also thanked the organizers for inviting the children and congratulated them on their ongoing commitment of producing “such unique programs which promote Cyprus and the island’s rich cultural heritage.”
Congratulations were also extended to the organizers by the Consul of Greece to New York, Evangelos Kyriakopoulos, who also stressed that it was an exceptional pleasure for him to participate in yet another successful event by CYPRECO. Kyriakopoulos noted that he had the opportunity to visit Khirokitia which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The presence of UNESCO in Cyprus he stressed is extremely important because the organization also keeps an eye on the many other historical sites on the island which are under Turkish occupation. Kyriakopoulos also congratulated the filmmaker and producer of the documentary for her true commitment to promoting Cyprus’ rich history and culture.
A written message from the Consul General of Cyprus to New York, Koula Sofianou, who was present earlier at the event was also read. In her greeting message Sofianou conveyed her most heartfelt wishes and congratulated CYPRECO for “enriching once more the cultural life of the diaspora.” Referring to the screening of the documentary dedicated to Khirokitia, an archeological site of such importance as to be listed in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List, Sofianou praised Maroulleti for her talent stressing that it is another example of her efforts to enlighten her loyal audience on the rich history and culture of Cyprus.
Filmed on location and based on research of the archeological findings at the site from ongoing excavations, the documentary highlights step-by-step with video and narration the history and establishment of the Neolithic Settlement of Khirokitia which dates back to the 7th millennium BC. The unique architecture of this Aceramic village, the methods and materials used to build it is explained in the beginning of the documentary. The Khirokitia complex, unique to Cyprus and the near east, as further explained in the documentary shows the full extent of the exceptional skills of its first inhabitants who built this village with unique circular houses with flat roofs in comparison to most villages of that period in the Near East which feature rectangular units.
The documentary also provides an in-depth look into the customs, traditions, beliefs and the way of life of the first inhabitants of Khirokitia which are revealed from the discovery of important artifacts such as pottery, tools, jewelry, utensils, rocks of various origins and human remains among others.
In the last part of her documentary, Maroulleti brings attention to some remarkable archaeological discoveries during the last decade of the 20th century which challenged Khirokitia as one of the oldest prehistoric settlements of Cyprus. As explained, excavations at the rock-shelter known as Aetokremnos on the Akrotiri Peninsula brought to light archaeological findings dating back to around 10,000 BC while excavations at Pareklissia Shillourokampos brought to light what appeared to be a pre-Khirokitia type architectural remains dating back to the end of the 9th millennium and to the second half of the 8th millennium BC.
In Spring 2004, archaeologists digging at Shillourokampos also unearthed a 9,500-year old grave containing the remains of a human and a cat buried with seashells, polished stones, artifacts and other offerings. As stressed in the documentary, despite these new discoveries, to this day the prehistoric site at Khirokitia boasts the largest exhibits of architectural remains and is one of the most comprehensively studied Aceramic Neolithic settlements in the eastern Mediterranean and one of the most popular archaeological sites on Cyprus visited by thousands of tourists each year. In recognition of its importance, UNESCO included Khirokitia in its World Heritage List in December of 1998, making it the third Cypriot site to be included in this prestigious list.
After the screening, Maroulleti also acknowledged the attendance of a family who comes from Khirokitia, Among them, Louis Andreou who was invited to the podium to share his thoughts about the documentary. Very moved Andreou said that the screening revived some of his childhood memories growing up so closely to the ancient site including the first excavations that took place. Thanking and congratulating the filmmaker for this production and presentation, he stressed that the documentary truly highlights the importance of this prehistoric site and “enriches our knowledge about the history of Khirokitia,” He further stressed that although he comes from Khirokitia he was not very familiar with the historical facts surrounding the ancient site. The film helped him appreciate even more his village and his rich heritage.
The event dedicated to Khirokitia, with free admission as a public service, was under the auspices of the Cyprus Federation of America and supported by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York. It was made in part by Arch Capital Services, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cyprus Federation of America.