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Turner Bequest excavations (Kourion): site D

This site was centred on the top and northern slopes of a small ridge called Bamboula to the north of Episkopi, close to the road leading to the main crossing point over the Kouris river towards Erimi village. Tombs 27 to 50 and 86 to 109 belong to this cemetery, predominantly LBA in date but with some burials from the Early Bronze Age (EBA) or from the CG and CA periods. Walters also noted the remains of buildings at Bamboula and surmised there may have been a city here at some date:

The nature of the ground on this present site also suggests that it may once have been a city – with a raised plateau in the centre from which the ground in which the tombs have been found slopes in terraces to the north, and more gradually to the south, on which side there are traces of buildings or constructions of some kind; while there are also traces of foundations on the raised platform, which at the present time is worn down to the bare rock in most places.[1]

No details are recorded, but it is probable that these were the remains of the LBA settlement which, we now know from the later excavations by John Daniel in the 1930s (see below), overlay the cemetery.

Sketch plan of Site D from the Kourion Notebook, showing different stages of the work over the course of the campaign

A small cluster of tombs (96–99) were also explored 0.8km south-west of the summit, possibly close to the edge of the village of Episkopi. The deposits represent a mix of earlier and late Bronze Age burials but also – in the case of 96 and 98 – some Cypro-Archaic material in reused Bronze Age tombs. The exact location of these is uncertain, as remains of Bronze Age date are unknown this far south, though a deposit of MC (or perhaps LC IA) material, associated with some building remains, was found in the village in 1964, perhaps representing another settlement focus or cemetery to which belong Tombs 96–99.[2]

Walters also conducted trial excavations at a site approximately 0.8km to the south of Bamboula, discovering fragments of what appear to be Red Polished pottery and a copper or bronze dagger with a rat-tail tang of EC–MC date (in Tomb 58, assigned to the Cyprus Museum). This was probably part of the site of Episkopi-Phaneromeni, where excavations in 1955 and 1975–8 revealed several burial grounds of EC and MC date together with a small settlement quarter occupied exclusively in LC IA.[3]  It was during this LC IA horizon that Bamboula was first settled, possibly by the inhabitants of this site who seem to have abandoned their older homes (and perhaps others close by) around this time. It is possible that all the pre-LBA tombs recorded by the British Museum came from the Phaneromeni area and that the locations recorded in the surviving documentation are not entirely accurate, though as noted earlier the MC–LC IA material from Episkopi suggests that there was more than one settlement focus in the immediate area in this period.

Excavations at Bamboula by John Daniel in the 1930s and 1940s revealed 40 numbered tombs on the slopes of the hill, which, apart from many additional LBA burials, also included material from later periods.[4]  Because of the better quality of excavation and recording, but also a more comprehensive retention policy than that employed by the British Museum, the surviving material reflects more accurately the original burial deposits, even when they had been already disturbed or looted already prior to excavation by the University of Pennsylvia team. Several features excavated by the British Museum were re-identified by Daniel (namely, Tombs 50, 53/102, 101 and 104, the latter actually a well). This helped to clarify the original context of the items from these tombs preserved by Walters, including the well-known Mycenaean pictorial krater, depicting women framed in panels, found in many pieces in Tombs 53 and 103.

In addition to at least one tomb of EBA date (Tomb 1), the tombs from the University of Pennsylvania expedition ranged in date from late LC IA or early LC IB to the end of the LC IIIA period, in other words, matching the life-span of the associated LC settlement which was explored at the same time (see below). As in the tombs opened by the British Museum team, the site was also used for burial during the IA, particularly in the Cypro-Geometric and Cypro-Archaic periods, again sometimes reusing older Bronze Age tombs. As noted above in the content of Site B (Kaloriziki) there was a significant break between the LBA occupation and the site and the subsequent IA reuse, a fact that was less apparent to the original excavators or to Benson, who published the excavations after Daniel’s death.[5]

Extensive traces of the contemporary LC settlement were also uncovered in several parts of the site, dating from late LC IA/early IB to the end of Late Cypriot IIIA (c. 1550–1100 BC) in addition to evidence for later use of the site throughout the first millennium BC and down to Roman times.[6]  Several areas of domestic buildings or workshops and artisanal areas, arranged around wide streets, were explored in some depth in Areas A and E. More monumental features included fragments of a town wall, defended by several towers, extending for over 90m along the east side of the settlement, a stone-lined well just below the summit of the hill in Trench 15 near the putative location of the ‘palace’, an artificially levelled area nearby in Area C (called the ‘Agora’ by Daniel) and stretches of a kerbed street c. 2.5m wide identified over a length of 75m in Trench 17.

While the excavations by the State University of New York in more recent times were largely inconclusive,[7]  ongoing work by the University of Cincinnati led by Gisela Walberg (2001–present) have uncovered evidence for both the LBA and later use of the site, though the latter results are known only through preliminary reports. The Department of Antiquities have also discovered more tombs of the LC necropolis in the course of rescue excavation in the area.[8]

Daniel also excavated a late CC tomb some 300m to the south of Bamboula, somewhat closer to the modern village, where tombs of CG II to CA date have been discovered over the years.[9]  (see below, Cypro-Classical burial customs). Given the distance between here and other burial grounds of this period around Kourion, including the CG–CC material on Bamboula itself mentioned above, there was presumably another cemetery focus around Episkopi.[10]  Finally, a subterranean building approached by a flight of 20 steps on the edge of Episkopi, explored without success by Walters (but also by Williamson and Cesnola before him apparently), may have been an elaborate built-tomb of Hellenistic or Roman date of a type found elsewhere around ancient Kourion. This tomb presumably formed part of the broader spread of burials in the area of the modern village known from other excavations. [11]

Introductions to the sites

Guide to the tombs at Site D

  • ^ [1] - BM Original Papers: Letter of H.B. Walters to the Principal Librarian (i.e. the Director) of the British Museum, 24 February 1895.
  • ^ [2] - Swiny 1981, 59–60. Dr Ellen Herscher kindly alerted me to the significance of this material.
  • ^ [3] - Weinberg 1956; Carpenter 1981; Herscher 1981; Swiny 1982, chapter VII
  • ^ [4] - Benson 1972; Merrillees 1974; Steel 1996.
  • ^ [5] - Steel 1996.
  • ^ [6] - Weinberg 1983; Weinberg in Swiny 1982; Benson 1969; 1970.
  • ^ [7] - Chronique des Fouilles, BCH 1988, 828.
  • ^ [8] - Christou 1994; Chronique des Fouilles, BCH 120/2 1996, 1060.
  • ^ [9] - Benson 1956; BCH 1995, 807 (?)
  • ^ [10] - Daniel 1939, 21; Chronique des Fouilles, BCH 99 (1975), 503; 108 (1984), 928; 121 (1997), 898–9; 123 (1999), 606–7; 127 (2002), 656; also Bikai 1987, no. 168 for a Phoenician juglet from a tomb at
  • ^ [11] - Walters 1900, 62