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Ancient Elephas Cypriotes and Phanourios Minutis fount in Cyprus October 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus, Science.
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Cyprus > once home to the dwarf elephants and pygmy hippos > An excavation in the Famagusta [Ammochostos] district has unearthed animal remains including tiny elephants and hippopotamuses dating back some 250,000 years.

The recent findings in an area close to Ayia Napa revealed the skeletal remains of dwarf elephants (Elephas Cypriotes) and pygmy hippos (Phanourios Minutis) as well as remains of ancient rats and bats. Other remains include fossilised flesh of animals and remains of now extinct birds. Similar remains have also been discovered in other Mediterranean islands such as Sardinia and Crete.

In the past, similar findings from the Epipalaeolithic age were made with the most intriguing remains unearthed in areas close to Pentadaktylos and Xylotymbou. This is the fourth such dig to take place in six years with the first dig taking place in October 2001, the second between May and June 2002 and the third in October 2002.

According to scientists, Cyprus was not settled in the Old Stone Age, which led to the survival of numerous dwarf forms, such as the dwarf elephants and pygmy hippos. These animals are thought to have arrived on the island as a result of being swept out to sea while swimming off the coast of what is now Egypt. During the Epipalaeolithic age, it is believed that Cyprus was far closer to Egypt, with some estimating the distance as no more than 30 kilometres.

The extinction of the pygmy hippos and dwarf elephants has been linked to the earliest arrival of Homo sapiens on the island. Piles of burned bones discovered in the caves of the first humans in Cyprus is further evidence that the first Cypriots may simply have gobbled them up. The caves were discovered on the southern coasts of the island.

The pygmy hippo, which measured 1.5 metres in length and 0.75 metres in height, became extinct between 11,000 and 9,000 years ago. The dwarf elephants were around one metre tall.

The reason behind the dwarfing of many animals in Cyprus came about through the process of insular dwarfism which is caused by gene pools limited to a small environment.
The skeletal remains discovered at the recent dig in Xylotymbou have been sent to the Geology and Paleontology Department, which operates under the wing of the University of Athens.

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