5th century architectural complex unearthed at the site of ancient Paphos in Cyprus

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As part of excavations at the archaeological site of Palaipafos (‘old Pafos’ in Greek) in Kouklia Village of Cyprus, researchers have unearthed the remains of a 5th-century architectural complex dating back to the era of the Paphos royal dynasty. The discovery was made as part of the 13th annual field research in Palaipafos by the University of Cyprus, under the direction of Professor Maria Iacovou of the Department of History and Archaeology.

It was during the excavations at Hatziaptoulla Plateau – between May and July 2018 – that the archaeologists uncovered an “architectural unit”, constructed in early 5th century BC by the royal dynasty of Paphos to better manage economic resources. Located in the northern side of the plateau, the complex’s production and storage units had been erected in corridors that extended outside the 65-meter-long acropolis wall, as per the researchers.

So far, archaeologists have discovered around six compartments and communication corridors. Among the finds in the area is a stone masonry that currently stands at 2 meters in height. Apart from that, the production facilities are also well-preserved, complete with workshop installations containing millstones, olive presses, water pipes, basins and weights.

In and around the complex, the team has recovered a variety of remains pertaining to the palaeoenvironment of the region, including animal bones, seeds, charcoal fragments, olive pits and slag. These finds, according to the researchers, will help shed light on the economic model of the ancient city of Paphos.

Units 1 To 6 At The Architectural Complex

Survey of Units 3 and 4 at the complex has revealed that these structures were originally used for the production of olive oil. On the other hand, Unit 1 likely served as a warehouse, since it housed the fragments of a large number of local as well as imported amphorae, primarily wine amphorae.

This, as per the archaeologists, points to the extensive trade networks that ancient Paphos maintained with Carthage, Egypt, Syria, present-day Lebanon and the Aegean (Thassos, Kos, Rhodes and Chios) and places along the Asia Minor coast (Ephesus, Miletus and Samos), particularly in the period between circa 4th century BC and 2nd century BC.

While examining Unit 2, the team unearthed large amounts of murex shells. Upon further analysis of the red seashells, the researchers concluded that the extraction of the valuable Tyrian purple (dye) from the shell gland had been carried out in neighboring facilities. These shells were then brought to Unit 2 for secondary processing, where they were used to make watertight coatings.

Situated in the north part of the complex, Units 5 and 6 are believed to have been part of an industrial facility, extending between two parallel walls. Excavations in the area have revealed stone pipes that lead to a stone bathtub in Unit 6. However, due to the lack of substantial data from the pipes and the bathtub, the archaeologists have not yet been able to ascertain the purpose of these two units.

Ancient Paphos: A Brief Overview

Situated along the southwest coast of Cyprus, the present city of Paphos stretches along the Mediterranean coast, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Limassol. Inhabited since the Neolithic era, the ancient city of Paphos stood on a hillside at Kouklia, only a few miles from the sea. The site, which is currently included in the UNESCO list of cultural and natural treasures of the world’s heritage, houses the remains of several ancient monuments and structures.  

It was the center of the cult of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite had originally landed on Paphos when she emerged from the sea. In fact, the archaeological site of Palaipafos features what is known as the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, one of the most important sites related to the ancient Greek goddess in Cyprus.

Today, the site houses the remains of a 12-century conical stone that is supposed to represent Aphrodite, a Roman-era temple, another smaller sanctuary as well as the ruins of a Roman abode. Interestingly, the Hatziaptoulla Plateau – situated less than a kilometer east of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite – was the administrative-economic hub of the ancient city, especially during the Cypro-Classical period.

Excavations at the plateau first started in 2006, as part of The Palaepaphos Urban Landscape Project (PULP). Following the successful completion of the 13th annual field research, archaeologists from the University of Cyprus are now hoping to digitally reconstruct the architectural complex, using advanced 3D technology.

Source/Image Credits: GreekReporter

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