Search this Catalogue

Advanced search

History of excavations in the Kourion
area continued

Modern excavations in the Kourion area

Map of the Kouris valley area showing the major prehistoric sites, many discovered during recent fieldwork. (Rupp, Swiny and Herscher 2003, fig. 1.2; reproduced courtesy of Dr Stuart Swiny)


The University of Pennsylvania Museum began the first truly modern excavations in the area in 1934, led by G. McFadden, B.H. Hill and J. Daniel, working continuously until 1953.[1]  Work focused in particular on the sanctuary of Apollo Hylates and the nearby Stadium,[2]  the acropolis of the Classical city including the Theatre[3],  and the LBA site (Area D, now known as Bamboula), excavated by the British Museum in 1895, where the accompanying settlement was also uncovered.[4]  The extensive early Iron Age necropolis at Kaloriziki (related to British Museum Area A) was also explored, following work there by Porphyrios Dikaios of the Department of Antiquities earlier in the decade.[5]  The Cypro-Classical (CC), Hellenistic and Roman burial grounds around the church of Ayios Ermoyenis below the acropolis (which included British Museum Area B) were also excavated during this time, along with other burials of this period elsewhere in the Kourion area.[6]

However, like the earlier Turner Bequest team, the early American excavators were driven by a quest to discover the Hellenic roots of ancient Kourion and their early interpretations were heavily influenced by this perspective.[7]  The difference, however, was the application of scientific methods by excavators Daniel and Hill, who were professionally trained archaeologists with much experience of fieldwork. This ensured that their discoveries established a more scientific basis for the study of the ancient site over the course of the 20th century than the older work by the British Museum, though the results of the University of Pennsylvania excavations were also not published in detail for many years and some, unfortunately, not at all.[8]

Work by foreign teams in the Kourion area has continued to this day. This includes: the continuation of McFadden’s work on the large basilica on the acropolis from the 1950s to the 1970s; renewed efforts at Apollo Hylates by the University of Arizona between 1978 and 1984;[9]  Soren’s examination of the area near the Hellenistic and Roman theatre from 1984–7;[10]  Danielle Parks’ important work on the Roman cemeteries below the east (‘Amathus’) gate of the acropolis;[11]  and Walberg’s renewed excavations at Bamboula for the University of Cinncinnati.[12]

Throughout all this time, the Department of Antiquities continued its own research and rescue excavations. As noted earlier, Dikaios excavated 17 tombs at the cemetery of Kaloriziki before Daniel and McFadden’s work there.[13]  Renewed exploration and restoration of the Theatre and Stadium took place in the 1960s, followed by the discovery of a small basilica in the vicinity of British Museum Area C between 1971 and 1974 by A. Christodoulou.[14]  Dr D. Christou’s extensive excavations on the acropolis extended from 1975 to 1993, revealing extensive areas of the Late Classical and Hellenistic to Roman city, including the Agora and its surrounding quarter.[15]

While the older excavations around Kourion concentrated on the imposing Classical monuments of Kourion, more recent field survey and excavation in other parts of the Kouris valley and its hinterland by both Cypriot and foreign archaeologists have revealed a very long sequence of human occupation extending from the later Neolithic period down to the end of Antiquity, c. 5000 BC–AD 500. The earliest known human site on Cyprus, the rock shelter at Aetokremnos on the southern coast of the Akrotiri peninsula in use during the tenth millennium BC, was explored in the 1980s.[16]  The Ceramic Neolithic settlement of Sotira-Teppes to the north of Kourion and the Middle Chalcolithic site of Erimi-Pamboules across the Kouris river from Episkopi were excavated by Porphyrios Dikaios during the 1930s and 1940s. These important excavations laid the foundations for the modern study of the pre-Bronze Age history of the region, and until relatively recently both sites gave their names to their respective cultural phases. [17]   Some material from these excavations was given to the British Museum and is presented in this catalogue.

A series of late Chalcolithic and Bronze Age cemeteries and settlement scatters, both in the main Kouris corridor and the smaller valleys to the west, were explored by the Kent State University Survey and subsequent excavations from the 1970s onwards, in addition to numerous discoveries made during rescue excavations by the Department of Antiquities.[18]  More recent fieldwork by the Kouris Valley Project (Universities of Florence and Chieti) has also greatly increased our knowledge of the Early and Middle Bronze Age in the area, clarifying the historical background to the emergence of Kourion-Bamboula in the LBA but also the horizon in which previously known sites of this period, such as Episkopi-Phaneromeni and Erimi-Kafkalla, should be understood.[19]  Renewed excavations have been conducted at Bamboula by the University of Cincinnati since 2001, though only brief preliminary reports have been published.[20]

The discovery of the major LBA ashlar complex and associated settlement at Alassa, 10km to the north, which controlled the upper part of the valley – and perhaps even the whole region, if not the island – in the Late Cypriot (LC) IIC– IIIA period has transformed our view of the Kouris valley in this period, especially in the context of the wider Bronze Age settlement pattern in this area, which may be related to the nearby copper sources.[21]

Likewise, the recently discovered LC II–III settlement site of Erimi-Pitharka near the previously known cemetery has great implications for the settlement history and political structure of the region during the LBA, including the possibility of continuity into the Iron Age.[22]  Sites of later periods, particularly cemeteries of Cypro-Archaic to Roman date, have also been discovered throughout the region, providing an important settlement context to the historical kingdom of Kourion and the later Hellenistic and Roman city, though many are known only from preliminary reports.[23]

View of the Kouris dam, the construction of which led to the excavation of the archaeological site of Alassa


In sum, the search for Kourion’s past originated in a search for Classical and Mycenaean remains based on a very limited historical or literary record, but has developed over time to encompass a much longer and richer story of human occupation extending over thousands of years from the ninth millennium BC through to the Late Roman period. Recent excavations allow the older, imperfectly recovered and published discoveries from the 19th century to be put in a proper scientific context.

It should be noted that much recent archaeological work has been spurred on by the rapid economic development of the area, such as the construction of the Kouris Dam and of the main highway from Nicosia to Paphos, but also the expansion of all the major settlements in the lower Kouris valley for commercial, residential and touristic purposes. Apart from the major threat this work poses to the archaeological heritage of the area, the new material which results from rescue excavations and, more positively, survey and excavation conducted before archaeological sites are threatened, is likely to change our understanding of the history of the Kouris valley once again.[24]


  • ^ [1] - Daniel 1948; Davies 1989.
  • ^ [2] - Buitron and Soren in Swiny 1982, 58–67; Sinos 1990; Young and Young 1955; Soren 1987; Buitron Oliver et al. 1996 passim.
  • ^ [3] - Swiny 1982 passim; Soren and James 1988.
  • ^ [4] - Daniel 1940, Benson 1973; Weinberg 1983; Benson and Weinberg in Swiny 1982, 38–48.
  • ^ [5] - Dikaios 1933; Daniel 1937; McFadden 1954; Benson 1973.
  • ^ [6] - McFadden 1946; Benson 1956.
  • ^ [7] - Daniel 1940; Kiely forthcoming b.
  • ^ [8] - Davies forthcoming; Soren 1988.
  • ^ [9] - Buitron-Oliver et al. 1996.
  • ^ [10] - Soren 1988, 79–152.
  • ^ [11] - Parks 1995–2000.
  • ^ [12] - Walberg 2003; 2009.
  • ^ [13] - Dikaios 1933.
  • ^ [14] - Whittingham in Swiny 1982, 75–9.
  • ^ [15] - Christou 1993.
  • ^ [16] - Simmons 2001.
  • ^ [17] - Sotira: Dikaios 1961; Peltenberg 1978; Swiny 1982, 12–19. Erimi: Dikaios 1936; Heywood, Swiny and Whittingham 1981; Bolger 1988; Bolger 1985.Cf. Steel 2004, 12–15 for the terminology used for these periods; Knapp et al. 1994.
  • ^ [18] - Swiny 1981; Carpenter 1981; Herscher and Swiny 1992; Flourentzos 1991; Manginis and Babouranakis 1995; Swiny and Mavromatis 2000; Swiny, Rapp and Herscher 2003; Babouranakis et al. 2004.
  • ^ [19] - Jasink et al. 2008; Jasink 2010; see also Jasink and Bombardieri 2010 passim for other reports on this project.
  • ^ [20] - Walberg 2003; Walberg (no date).
  • ^ [21] - Hadjisavvas 1986; 1989; 1996; 2000; Flourentzos 1991; Goren et al. 2003.
  • ^ [22] - Vasiliou and Stylianou 2004; Flourentzos 2010.
  • ^ [23] - Flourentzos 1991; Fourrier 2006; Chronique 1984, BCH 109 , 938–9 (Alassa Tomb 1); Chronique 1968, BCH 93, 491–3; Chronique 1974, BCH 99, 817 (Monagri); Chronique 1969, BCH 94, 219 (Platres). Parks 1999, 418–20 provides a useful list of known sites of Hellenistic and Roman date up to this year.
  • ^ [24] - Iacovou 2007; see comments in Flourentzos 2010.