In the prehistoric period, Cyprus played a key role in the transmission of culture from the Near East to the European world. Khirokitia or Choirokhoitia is an exceptionally well-preserved archaeological site that has provided, and will continue to provide, scientific data of great importance relating to the spread of civilization from Asia to the Mediterranean world. Both the excavated remains and the untouched part of Choirokhoitia demonstrate clearly the origins of proto-urban settlement in the Mediterranean region and beyond.
The Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the eastern Mediterranean. It illustrates one aspect of the expansion of Neolithic culture in the special island environment. The long occupation of the village and the ample documentation of its cultural phases facilitate study of the evolution of this society. Burial customs and the use of figurines provide evidence for ritual and religious practices and beliefs of historical importance as manifested in some aspects of the material culture.
Permanent human occupation began in the Aceramic (pre-pottery) Proto-Neolithic period, starting around 7000 BC, when the Choirokhoitia site was founded, probably by people from Anatolia or the Levant - sedentary farmers, cultivating cereals and herding sheep, goats and pigs, all introduced from Asia Minor. For some reason Choirokhoitia and other sites were abandoned abruptly in the mid-6th millennium BC and were not reoccupied until 1,000 years later, in the Ceramic Neolithic period. There is less monumental evidence of occupation in the form of the remains of buildings from this period at Choirokhoitia, but new forms of plant and animal life, as well as the characteristic pottery, have been identified, suggesting that the new inhabitants were members of a fresh immigrant group, whose way of life was again based on agriculture and the raising of domestic animals. The site was finally abandoned in the early 4th millennium BC.
The earliest occupation, consisting of circular houses built from mud-brick and stone with flat roofs, was on the eastern side of the hill. It was protected by a massive wall barring access from the west (the other sides were protected naturally by the curve of the river and by very steep slopes). A second defensive wall was erected to protect a later extension of the village to the west. Both of the enceintes were pierced by gateways, an impressive example of which came to light during excavation. A staircase with three flights of steps was built within the thickness of an external stone bastion in the form of a parallelepiped, and still standing to a height of 2.50 m.
Some 20 houses have been excavated; they were constructed directly on the ground, without foundations, of undressed limestone blocks, mud-brick and rammed clay. The outer surfaces are frequently of stone and the inner of clay or unfired brick. Impressions in the debris have made it possible to deduce that their roofs were flat, made from branches and reeds topped with clay. In some places there is evidence of the internal surfaces of the walls having been painted.
Associated with the houses were the remains of hearths, cereal querns, and other domestic and agricultural equipment. A number of the houses had human burials beneath their rammed earth floors, showing evidence of inhumation rituals having been practised.
The finds from the settlement include many objects in stone and bone and, later, pottery, along with vegetable materials such as burnt grain (early forms of wheat and barley, lentils). Animal bones include domesticated species. The tools are diversified, ranging from bone needles to agricultural implements such as sickles. However, the most noteworthy finds are undoubtedly the anthropomorphic figurines in stone (and one in clay), which point to the existence at this early period of elaborate spiritual beliefs.References:
Czocha Castle is located on the Lake Leśnia, what is now the Polish part of Upper Lusatia. Czocha castle was built on gneiss rock, and its oldest part is the keep, to which housing structures were later added.
Czocha Castle began as a stronghold, on the Czech-Lusatian border. Its construction was ordered by Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, in the middle of the 13th century (1241–1247). In 1253 castle was handed over to Konrad von Wallhausen, Bishop of Meissen. In 1319 the complex became part of the dukedom of Henry I of Jawor, and after his death, it was taken over by another Silesian prince, Bolko II the Small, and his wife Agnieszka. Origin of the stone castle dates back to 1329.
In the mid-14th century, Czocha Castle was annexed by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. Then, between 1389 and 1453, it belonged to the noble families of von Dohn and von Kluks. Reinforced, the complex was besieged by the Hussites in the early 15th century, who captured it in 1427, and remained in the castle for unknown time (see Hussite Wars). In 1453, the castle was purchased by the family of von Nostitz, who owned it for 250 years, making several changes through remodelling projects in 1525 and 1611. Czocha's walls were strengthened and reinforced, which thwarted a Swedish siege of the complex during the Thirty Years War. In 1703, the castle was purchased by Jan Hartwig von Uechtritz, influential courtier of Augustus II the Strong. On August 17, 1793, the whole complex burned in a fire.
In 1909, Czocha was bought by a cigar manufacturer from Dresden, Ernst Gutschow, who ordered major remodelling, carried out by Berlin architect Bodo Ebhardt, based on a 1703 painting of the castle. Gutschow, who was close to the Russian Imperial Court and hosted several White emigres in Czocha, lived in the castle until March 1945. Upon leaving, he packed up the most valuable possessions and moved them out.
After World War II, the castle was ransacked several times, both by soldiers of the Red Army, and Polish thieves, who came to the so-called Recovered Territories from central and eastern part of the country. Pieces of furniture and other goods were stolen, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the castle was home to refugees from Greece. In 1952, Czocha was taken over by the Polish Army. Used as a military vacation resort, it was erased from official maps. The castle has been open to the public since September 1996 as a hotel and conference centre. The complex was featured in several movies and television series. Recently, the castle has been used as the setting of the College of Wizardry, a live action role-playing game (LARP) that takes place in their own universe and can be compared to Harry Potter.