Maa - Paleokastro Settlement

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Maa-Paleokastro, a settlement on the western coast of the island close to Coral Bay, is important for the understanding of the end of the Late Bronze Age in Cyprus. Maa is located a good distance from the nearest main urban center of the antiquity Palepafos, some 25 kilometers to the southeast, and 10 kilometers northwest of the modern town of Pafos. Its imposing defensive walls were always exposed and gave the site its name of "Palaeokastro” (‘the old castle’).

This area was settled by the first Mycenaean Greeks who arrived on the island around 1200 BC, after the fall of the Mycenaean kingdoms in mainland Greece. It is, therefore, one of the nuclei from which began the Hellenization of Cyprus. Strategic advantages, like the superb natural harbours provided by the sheltered bays and the uninterrupted view of the land and sea approaches, appear to have been dominant in the choice of site.

The site is well known for its fortification walls, reminiscent of Mycenaean Cyclopean architecture. These large ashlar blocks and the steep rugged cliffs on the other sides of the site offered protection to the inhabitants of Maa and it is believed that the site had a specific defensive function. Despite its strong protective character, the site’s life span was short and came to an end c.1200 BC.

The fortifications of the settlement consist of two separate walls. The first wall protected the settlement from the land, as it blocked the whole width of the narrowest part of the peninsula. The second offered protection from the sea, as it is located on the edge of the peninsula, just next to the sea. Both these fortifications were built in the same way, strongly reminiscent of the ‘Cyclopean’ style of Mycenaean walls.

The walls which faced towards the land have a total length of 70 metres and a width of 3.5 metres. They have a gate 4 metres wide. The lower part of the walls has two parallel rows of boulders, the gap between them filled with smaller stones. The upper part seems to have been built of mud-brick. The sea-front wall was built in the same way, but the boulders of the lower part were of a smaller size.

Many archaeologists associate the destruction of Maa and other Late Bronze Age sites, with the appearance of the ‘Sea People’, blamed by scholars for causing wide spread disorder and destruction throughout the Eastern Mediterranean towards the end of the Bronze Age.

Address: Pafos

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