Search this Catalogue

Advanced search

Turner Bequest excavations (Kourion):
Site C / Temple site

Located in a valley to the north of the acropolis near the ancient hippodrome, this large area included several separate burial grounds and a rural sanctuary dedicated to Demeter and, possibly, to a male god as well. The map published in Excavations in Cyprus gives a misleading impression of the extent of the area explored. The sketch map in the Notebook, though schematic, and the more detailed map of the site itself gives a more accurate impression [image].

The two clusters of burials produced several chamber tombs (Tombs 15–19) with large quantities of local pottery, mostly not kept by the excavators, dating to the CA and CC periods. Sketch plans of the tombs in the Notebook include some information on the surviving anthropological remains, which were recorded in situ in a number of cases (see below). The groups of tombs probably belonged to a much larger cemetery extending all over the valley between the hippodrome and the modern pathway.

In the middle of the site, where the British Museum team had earlier discovered what they initially called Tomb 18, were found the remains of buildings together with an extensive deposit of votive offerings, chiefly clay and stone figurines. These belonged to a sanctuary of later CC and Hellenistic date, to judge by the surviving finds, though many of the items were not kept.

The most important discovery from the sanctuary was a statue base with an inscription in both alphabetic Greek and Cypriot syllabic characters dedicated to Demeter and Kore and dating from the late 4th or earlier 3rd century BC. This was found along with fragments of a marble statue, including a fine female head described by the excavators as that of a figure of ‘Cnidian Aphrodite’.[1]  The latter was believed to have been lost, but was rediscovered in the course of the Cyprus Digitisation Project. The statue is in fact a Hellenistic portrait head dating to the 3rd or 2nd century BC. A series of Hellenistic and Roman coins, together with a Greek inscription of Late Roman date, found in the same area may represent a later use of the sanctuary, though they may also have come from graves or buildings constructed over the site at a later period.

Renewed excavations at this site in the 20th century did not trace the location of this sanctuary, but a small early Christian church (known as the Extra-Mural Basilica) was explored in this area between 1971 and 1974.[2]  A cache of Hellenistic votive figurines, some similar to those found in 1895, presumably derived from another pre-Christian sanctuary at this site. It is tempting to believe that the location of both sites was influenced by an ancient road that probably passed through here, perhaps related to the hippodrome, which would have remained in use after the transition to the new religion.

Introductions to the sites

Guide to the tombs at Site C

  • ^ [1] - Walters 1900, fig. 121; Masson 1983, no. 215.
  • ^ [2] - Whittingham in Swiny 1982, 80–5; Christou 1993, 47–50.