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:
Royal Palace of Naples was one of the four residences near Naples used by the Bourbon Kings during their rule of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1734-1860): the others were the palaces of Caserta, Capodimonte overlooking Naples, and the third Portici, on the slopes of Vesuvius.
Construction on the present building was begun in the 17th century by the architect Domenico Fontana. Intended to house the King Philip III of Spain on a visit never fulfilled to this part of his kingdom, instead it initially housed the Viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro, count of Lemos. By 1616, the facade had been completed, and by 1620, the interior was frescoed by Battistello Caracciolo, Giovanni Balducci, and Belisario Corenzio. The decoration of the Royal Chapel of Assumption was not completed until 1644 by Antonio Picchiatti.
In 1734, with the arrival of Charles III of Spain to Naples, the palace became the royal residence of the Bourbons. On the occasion of his marriage to Maria Amalia of Saxony in 1738, Francesco De Mura and Domenico Antonio Vaccaro helped remodel the interior. Further modernization took place under Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. In 1768, on the occasion of his marriage to Maria Carolina of Austria, under the direction of Ferdinando Fuga, the great hall was rebuilt and the court theater added. During the second half of the 18th century, a 'new wing' was added, which in 1927 became the Vittorio Emanuele III National Library. By the 18th century, the royal residence was moved to Reggia of Caserta, as that inland town was more defensible from naval assault, as well as more distant from the often-rebellious populace of Naples.
During the Napoleonic occupation the palace was enriched by Joachim Murat and his wife, Caroline Bonaparte, with Neoclassic decorations and furnishings. However, a fire in 1837 damaged many rooms, and required restoration from 1838 to 1858 under the direction of Gaetano Genovese. Further additions of a Party Wing and a Belvedere were made in this period. At the corner of the palace with San Carlo Theatre, a new facade was created that obscured the viceroyal palace of Pedro de Toledo.
In 1922, it was decided to transfer here the contents of the National Library. The transfer of library collections was made by 1925.
The library suffered from bombing during World War II and the subsequent military occupation of the building caused serious damage. Today, the palace and adjacent grounds house the famous Teatro San Carlo, the smaller Teatrino di Corte (recently restored), the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III, a museum, and offices, including those of the regional tourist board.