Cyprus Antiquities

Department of Antiquities - The protection, conservation or restoration and promotion of ancient monuments and archaeological sites as well as the maintenance of government museums throughout the island are the responsibility of the Department of Antiquities. It is in general responsible for the management of the cultural heritage which includes excavations (rescue and systematic), conservation and landscaping and restoration of churches and buildings of rural or urban architecture. The work of the Department is published annually in the Annual Report of the Director of the Department of Antiquities while interim excavation reports and studies on Cypriot archaeology are published in the scientific journal Report of the Department of Antiquities.

Cyprus Museums - The Department of Antiquities also undertakes to maintain the museums of the island, to expand or create new ones. The various museums contain objects representing the entire history of the island by exhibiting ceramics, sculpture, metal objects, jewellery, tombs, inscriptions as well as objects of traditional arts and crafts. The largest museum is the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia while each district has its own museum; various smaller local or thematic museums were established at Kourion, (Episkopi), Kouklia (Palaipafos) Maa-Palaeokastro and Marion Arsinoe at Polis Chrysochous.

The Medieval Museum is housed in the Castle of Limassol and small folk museums were founded at Fikardou, Yeroskipou and Pano Lefkara (Museum of Traditional Embroidery and Silversmithing). The House of Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios in Nicosia was restored to house a small ethnological collection, a project which received a Europa Nostra award in 1988. The various museums of Cyprus participate in many exhibitions around the world by lending objects relevant to the theme of the exhibition.

Much interest is shown in the archaeology of Cyprus by many scholars who visit the island to study its monuments and antiquities. Also many exhibitions, symposia/conferences related to the archaeology of Cyprus are organized every year abroad or in Cyprus to which members of the staff of the Department of Antiquities often participate.

Recent Excavations in Cyprus - Excavations are being carried out by the staff of the Department of Antiquities at Amathus Lower City, Idalion, the Medieval sugar-mill of Kolossi, while large scale rescue excavations are being held at two sites in Nicosia (Hill of Agios Georgios, PA.SY.D.Y.) where the new House of Representatives will be erected, and the Old Municipality, proposed area for the erection of the new Town Hall Building. New data from both those excavations have enlightened the little known history of Nicosia.

At the same time a number of foreign archaeological missions from various foreign universities are being held, ranging from the very beginnings of the settlement of the island in the earliest phases of the Neolithic to the Medieval period. As a result of these excavations, the archaeology of Cyprus and particularly the earliest phases were re-appraised on the evidence of new data which indicate that the history of the island is older by about 3 millennia. The Pafos District yielded important information on the Chalcolithic period as excavations of settlements of the period at Kissonerga and Lemba as well as excavations of cemetery sites (Souskiou) have provided a well-balanced picture of habitation and social organization of the area in this period.

Settlements of Early and Middle Bronze Age were excavated at Alambra and Marki-Alonia supplementing existing evidence which was so far restricted to cemetery evidence, dependent on excavations of important cemeteries at the beginning of the 20th century. The excavations at Kalavasos-Agios Dhimitrios have also enriched our knowledge of the Late Bronze Age, a period of prosperity and wide foreign contacts. Research at the Late Bronze Age site of Kourion-Bamboula is also under way in conjunction with an underwater survey of the bay aiming at the assessment of the importance of the Episkopi bay in the same period.

Also important are the excavations of the ancient city of Idalion and Amathus while excavations at Polis Chrysochous (Marion), Aradippou-Panagia Ematousa and at Agios Georgios (PA.SY.D.Y.) in Nicosia, have provided new data for the organization of both urban and rural centers from the Archaic to the end of the Hellenistic period. In Pafos, the theatre of the city - the largest on the island - is currently under excavation. Excavations at Nea Pafos-Toumbalos and Agios Georgios Pegeias have also enriched our knowledge of the Christian periods in the westernmost part of the island. Interest in the underwater cultural heritage, intrigued by rapid technological development, led to a new convention drafted by UNESCO for its protection and recent conferences on the subject have acted as a stimulus for action both for documentation, protection and research in this field.

Restoration of Monuments in Cyprus - Restoration and conservation projects of ancient settlements, temples, theatres, castles, fortifications, churches/monasteries, mosques and houses of urban/rural traditional architecture are undertaken as well as the management plans of major archaeological sites (Nea Pafos and Choirokoitia) which have new been completed. The Venetian Walls of Nicosia have also been restored to their largest extent in the framework of a bicommunal project funded by UNOPS. A relatively large number of monuments has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In 1980 the archaeological sites of Kato Pafos and Palaipafos were inscribed, followed in 1985 by the inscription of nine painted churches of the Troodos regions (Panayia Forviotissa-Asinou), Agios Nikolaos Stegis (Kakopetria), Agios Ioannis Lampadistis (Kalopanagiotis), Panayia tou Araka (Lagoudera), Panagia (Moutoullas), Archangel (Pedoulas), Timios Stavros (Pelendri), Panagia Podithou (Galata) and Stavros tou Agiasmati (Platanistasa). The Neolithic village of Choirokoitia was inscribed in 1998 and the inscription of the Nine Painted churches was extended in 2001 to include the church of the Metamorphosis of Soter at Palaichori.

The fast pace of development in Cyprus ad the increasing dangers to the preservation of the cultural heritage led to the expropriation of the most important archaeological sites for their protection to ensure the prospect of continuing scientific excavation and study in future. In addition efforts are being made for the preservation of the cultural heritage in the occupied part of the island where churches/monasteries, graveyards and other monuments suffered much destruction in the past 30 years as a result of looting or neglect.

Source: Press And Information Office, Republic Of Cyprus, 2005