Xerolithia – The Art of Drystone
“Xerolithia” (Xeros=dry and lithos=stone) are stone walls that dot the rural landscape of Cyprus, mainly in the areas of Pitsilia, Solea, Marathasa, Krasochoria (Lemesos wine villages) and Akamas Peninsula. These constructions are traditionally found in mountainous areas and have been build for dwelling, farming and husbandry purposes.
They are built with local know-how, which was passed down from one generation to the next. It is a millennium-long technique of building walls by stacking stones upon each other without any binding mortar except dry soil. The careful selection and placement of the stones ensures solidity and durability.
Drystone building was an essential method to tackle natural phenomena such as landslides and floods. It protects against soil erosion and desertification, while it also enhances biodiversity and creates microclimatic conditions that improve agriculture.
Drystone techniques can be applied to simple constructions such as partition walls, retaining walls or road surfacing. They can also be used for more complex structures such as farm buildings, animal housing and temporary housing. A very common and easy application of drystone walls is for the creation of land drainage, irrigation and watering systems.
The art of drystone is listed in the UNESCO Cyprus Intangible Heritage List.