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Archaeological Investigations of the Extra-Urban and Urban Landscape in Eastern Mediterranean centres: A case-study at Palaepaphos (Cyprus)

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A holistic approach to understanding ancient Mediterranean polities

Fieldwork and research activities at Palaepaphos in Cyprus offer new insight on how communities lived in the 2nd and 1st millennia BC.


Cyprus is home to many treasures of the ancient world, especially in the area of Palaepaphos (modern village of Kouklia), which accommodated the urban centre of the Paphian polity during the better part of the second and first millennia BC. Palaepaphos is renowned for the Sanctuary of Aphrodite,a Unesco world heritage site. The EU-funded ARIEL project investigated the archaeological remains in the area dating to the the Bronze Age (ca. 2400-1050 BCE) and made important advances in understanding prehistoric Mediterranean polities, such as ancient Paphos. Seeking a holistic understanding of the formidable archaeological remains in the region of Paphos, ARIEL applied a new approach that combines traditional excavations with science and technology, from Geographic Information Systems to archaeobotany and petrography. It worked on establishing the onset of urbanisation, identifying the purpose of different sites, and examining economic and political aspects. The project team outlined new cultural heritage management guidelines to preserve the region’s natural and anthropogenic environment. It collaborated with the Department of Antiquities in Cyprus to create a management tool for helping to preserve different areas of archaeological value. On the ground, excavations carried out by the project’s team provided more insight into previously unknown sites of archaeological interest in Palaepaphos, such as an intricately constructed mound that consists of superimposed layers of marl and red soil. At a neighbouring site, the team identified a large defence structure, along with evidence that the area accommodated the city-state’s economic and administrative citadel. Detailed macroscopic studies of objects excavated in the past, which had remained unpublished, pinpointed the settlement’s foundation and revealed that Palaepaphos featured distinct clusters that accommodated residential, mortuary, industrial and other activities. The team also mapped important ceramic relationships with neighbouring regions and connections with other settlements in the eastern Mediterranean. Examination of material excavated 50 years ago from two ancient wells led to more insightful data on specialised crafts and everyday life in the settlement. Beyond Palaepaphos, yet still under the umbrella of ARIEL, the project team participated in studies of other archaeological sites and landscapes in Greece and Cyprus. The project’s results have been disseminated through numerous academic publications, workshops, conferences and lectures both in Europe and the United States. A key project event was an international workshop held in 2015 titled ‘Ceramic identities and affinities of the Paphos Region in the Bronze Age (3rd and 2nd millennium BC)’.


Mediterranean, excavations, Palaepaphos, ARIEL, archaeological, Bronze Age ceramic

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