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Cyprus’ archaeology moulds a passion for pottery March 25, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus, Books Life.
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Brimbank, Australia, Deputy Mayor Dr Kathryn Eriksson has just had her third book published and has plans for two more.

A passion for archaeology since she was a young girl has led Brimbank’s Deputy Mayor, Dr Kathryn Eriksson, to have three books published, with plans for another two in the next two years. Dr Eriksson’s latest work is on the archaeology and history of ancient Cyprus.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “I’d always been interested in archaeology. I was the little girl in class always saying I wanted to be an archaeologist and the other kids would ask, ‘What’s that?’”

Dr Eriksson, whose work is internationally renowned, has been working on the book for five years on behalf of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna.

Titled The Creative Independence of Late Bronze Age Cyprus, it is said to be the most comprehensive and definitive account of this period of ancient Cyprus (1580 to 1180 BC) ever published. It is volume 10 of a 14-book series. Dr Eriksson is a specialist in the area of ancient Cypriot ceramics of the Bronze Age.

In her earlier book, Red Lustrous Wares, she was able to establish that this form of pottery originated in Cyprus and not in Syria. The recent book adds to the previous one with a comprehensive analysis of another pottery form, White Slip Ware.


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.

Cyprus police seize valuable ancient artifacts October 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus, Police & Crime.
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Cyprus Police seized ancient gold and other artifacts dating up to 3,000 years back and arrested six suspected smugglers in a sting operation Friday, authorities said.

The antiquities, confiscated in the town of Limassol, include gold leaves and rings, two mediaeval gold coins and a bronze cross.

“It seems that the antiquities are of great value, both archaeological and financial,” said Pavlos Flourentzos, Director of the Cyprus Antiquities Department.

Police identified the suspects as four Cypriots and two Greek nationals, who were allegedly acting as middle men to sell the artifacts. Following a tip from Greece that Cypriot nationals were seeking to sell antiquities abroad, Cypriot and Greek police set up a sting operation on the island with an officer posing as a buyer. Police said the suspects were trying to sell the finds for €280,000.

UPDATE > Sunday 7th October, 2007

Police bust open illegal antiquities ring > Five men were arrested in Limassol in relation to investigations into an international network of illicit antiquities traders. Two Limassol homes were raided by police, who discovered an illegal hoard of great archaeological value.

“The finds are products of tomb-raiding by a group involved in illegal international antiquities trade,” said Police Chief Andreas Iatropoulos.

The suspects, three Cypriots and two Greeks, were arrested for illegal possession and trade of antiquities. Large collections were discovered in a garage in Ypsonas and a second house at Kato Polemidia. The raids were conducted by two officers of the Greek Police, the anti-terrorism wing of the Mobile Immediate Action Unit (MMAD) and officers of the Limassol Police Department.

Around 100 items were found at the Kato Polemidia house, ranging from the Paleolithic to the Byzantine period. Confiscated items include hundreds of gold coins, bronze coins, statues, gold, bronze and metal antique jewellery, bronze seals, sheets of gold and albums with pictures of archaeological finds. Approximately 40 more items were confiscated from the Ypsonas garage. An officer of the Antiquities Department is currently assessing the value of the finds.

“The confiscated items are of great archaeological value: they are a treasure. Only part of this collection would have been sold for 280,000 euro,” said Iatropoulos. The sale would have occurred yesterday morning, but was prevented by the police raids and arrests.
Investigations on the case began months ago when a Greek police officer informed police in Cyprus that a group of Cypriots possessed a large collection of archaeological finds and were seeking international buyers.

Cyprus police worked in cooperation with their Greek counterparts, and a Greek officer, experienced in similar cases, managed to infiltrate the illegal trade network. Pretending to be interested in buying Cypriot antiquities, he came to the island with two dealers, who lead the undercover officer to their Cypriot counterparts.

The three Cypriots run a tractor company, which police suspect was a front enabling them to identify and steal items of archaeological value. “This is not the first time they have done this. We suspect they have been previously involved in illicit antiquities trading,” Iatropoulos added.

The law stipulates that in cases where digging for construction purposes brings archaeological finds to the surface, there is an obligation to present these to the Antiquities Department.

House of Dionysos in Paphos closing for restoration October 2, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus.
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The House of Dionysos will be closed from October 8th to December 8th 2007

The Department of Antiquities of the Ministry of Communications and Works announces a change concerning the period during which the House of Dionysos at the Archaeological site of Kato Paphos will be closed for the public due to restoration works.

This will be between the 8th of October 2007 and the 8th of December 2007.

An award for the Antiquities Director in Cyprus October 2, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus.
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The Director of the Cyprus Department of Antiquities was awarded with the medal of the University of Warsaw

The Department of Antiquities of the Ministry of Communications and Works announces that on the 11th of September, the Director of the Department of Antiquities, Dr. Pavlos Flourentzos, was awarded with the medal of the University of Warsaw.

The Director of the Department of Antiquities received the award from A. Daszewski, Professor of Archaeology at Warsaw University, during a ceremony which was held in Pafos.

Roman wreck may point to massive battle September 6, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus.
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A shipwreck from the imperial Roman era, found off Cyprus, could lead to the discovery of vessels sunk in antiquity’s largest naval engagement, the Battle of Salamis in 306 BC, said an official statement on Thursday.

“According to historian Diodoros, it was somewhere in the area where in 306 BC the Macedonian King Demetrius Poliorketes triumphed over Ptolemy of Egypt in one of the largest naval battles of antiquity,” said Cyprus’ Antiquities Department.

More than 300 ships were believed to have been engaged in the battle that saw Demetrius capture Cyprus.

The Roman ship, dating from the first century AD, was discovered sunk off Cape Greco on the Mediterranean’s southeast coast during an underwater survey to determine the area’s long-term maritime history. Material found provided solid evidence of maritime traffic from the archaic or classic period.

The discovery had encouraged international archaeologists working in deeper waters offshore, and more extensive mapping of the wreck and the seabed is planned for next summer.

UPDATE > Cyprus to seek ancient shipwrecks > Cyprus is to launch sea surveys in an area where dozens of vessels led by warring successors to Alexander the Great are believed to have sunk in battle for control over the island in 306 BC.

Encouraged by the discovery of one wreck from a later Roman era, the survey slated for the summer of 2008 will extend into deep waters from the south-east tip of the island, known as Cape Greco, the island’s Antiquities Department said. “Cyprus is a crossroads and is very rich in ancient shipwrecks,” said Pavlos Flourentzos, director of Cyprus’s Department of Antiquities.

Historical accounts suggest that the Cape Greco region, a rocky outcrop between the now popular tourist resorts of Agia Napa and Protaras, saw one of the biggest naval battles of the ancient world. According to the ancient Greek historian, Diodorus of Sicily, in 306 BC Demetrios the Poliorketes (Besieger) triumphed over Ptolemy I of Egypt in a naval engagement off Cyprus, with dozens of vessels sunk as the result of combat.

“It is well known that there was a naval engagement in the region in 306 BC, so there is a potential of finding wrecks, or parts of wrecks, in deeper waters,” Flourentzos said. Ptolemy I, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, lost control of Cyprus for a period of 10 years after his defeat at the hands of Demetrios Poliorketes. Demetrios was son of Antigonus, a Macedonian nobleman who later ruled Asia Minor.

The Cypriot Antiquities Department announced on Thursday that an ancient Roman shipwreck, dated the 1st century AD, had been found in the same area. The extensive wreck, dating from the early Imperial Roman era, carried a mixed cargo of several amphora, predominantly jars from the southeast Aegean area.

Further mapping of the wreck would take place in 2008. Searches for better preserved shipwrecks would extend to the deeper sandy seabed which was suited to remote sensing techniques, the antiquities department said. Authorities said the projects were financially and logistically supported by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M University, the University of Pennsylvania and the RPM Nautical Foundation.

Excavations uncover new data on ancient Kingdom of Paphos July 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus.
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New data on the history of the ancient Κingdom of Paphos are forthcoming as a result of the archaeological field project conducted by the Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Cyprus at Kouklia-Palaepaphos since last year.

According to the Department of Antiquities of the Ministry of Communications and Works, the project’s main target is to reconstruct the urban topography of Palaepaphos through the identification of the ancient settlement’s main components.

In the Late Bronze Age, ancient Paphos was the administrative and economic centre responsible for the construction of the megalithic sanctuary of the Cypriote Aphrodite at the end of the 13th century BC. In the Iron Age, the Κings of Paphos retained responsibility for the upkeep and function of the sanctuary, and thus had the unusual privilege of being the goddess’s priests, until the very end of the 4th century BC when the institution of Cypriot Κingship was finally abolished by Ptolemy I.

The University of Cyprus team has been working on the northern side of the Palaepaphos-Marchello plateau since last year. The 2007 excavation team exposed 40 metres of the stone foundation of a monumental Iron Age defensive system, 3.5 meters in thickness. They have also uncovered a gate, so far one side of it only, impressively constructed of finely dressed ashlar blocks, which is protected by a bastion.

A general survey of the plateau as well as various construction details, the position of casemates on the inner side of the wall and that of buttresses on the external facade, suggest that the defence scheme was designed to follow and strengthen the natural contours of the hilltop in the manner of a citadel wall.

Analysis of the ceramic material recovered during the 2006 and 2007 seasons indicates that the site was originally used for the construction of Late Bronze Age chamber tombs. Sometime in the 11th century, when burial sites throughout Cyprus begin to be strictly separated from habitation sites, Marchello ceased to be a burial ground and it was gradually incorporated into the Iron Age urban fabric of Palaepaphos. On the evidence of pottery, this new cultural horizon lasted from the Geometric to the end of the Classical period.

By virtue of the fact that it commands the highest elevation in the landscape of Palaepaphos, it is more than likely that the hill of Marchello was chosen to fulfill a special function. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that, back in the 1950s, a large deposit of Greek syllabic inscriptions, some of them bearing the names of Paphian Kings, and statues, some of them undoubtedly of royal individuals, were found buried on the north side of a monumental and well preserved stretch of wall with a gate, which were then excavated in the 1960s. The recently exposed stretch of wall with a gate has now been shown to be part of the same system of defence.

A geophysical survey and another excavation season in May 2008 are expected to provide definitive evidence in favour, or against, the identification of Marchello as a walled royal citadel of the Archaic and Classical Kingdom of Paphos.

The excavations were designed and directed by Maria Iacovou, Associate Professor of Archaeology in the University of Cyprus. The 2007 excavation team comprised fifteen Cypriot graduate and undergraduate students of archaeology, a student from the Erasmus exchange programme, plus two British volunteers.