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Ancient Kourion:
finds from around the ancient city of Kourion and its environs

Ancient Kourion (or Curium) is one of the great archaeological experiences of Cyprus, instantly recognisable to the modern visitor by its cliff-top acropolis rising dramatically from the Mediterranean Sea west of the modern village of Episkopi near Limassol. The visible ruins comprise some of the best preserved Hellenistic and Roman ruins on the island, and are particularly notable for its rich mosaics and elaborate buildings such as the Theatre and the Early Christian basilica. Numerous cemeteries of chamber tombs cut into the surrounding hills and plains, including the flanks of the acropolis itself, have yielded many fine objects which now adorn the museums of Cyprus and the world. The area is also one of great physical beauty, having been largely protected from modern development, making it a very attractive destination for the casual visitor. The visible remains however represent just a small part of a much longer history of human activity in the immediate vicinity and broader region around Kourion which extends back to the 9th millennium BC which has been revealed by modern archaeological science.

This long and rich story is explored in this chapter of the Ancient Cyprus in the British Museum Online Research Catalogue based on more than 800 objects from the ancient site of Kourion and its surrounding areas now preserved in the British Museum. The artefacts come principally from two excavations: those in 1882 by Gordon Hake working for Lt (later Lord) Kitchener of the Cyprus Survey on behalf of the South Kensington Museum (subsequently the V&A) and later transferred to the British Museum; and the Turner Bequest excavations for the British Museum conducted by H.B. Walters in 1895. The finds are principally from tombs in the cemeteries surrounding the ancient acropolis, ranging in date from the Early–Middle Bronze Age down to the Late Roman period, but some also come from a rural sanctuary dedicated to Demeter and Kore.

The acropolis of Kourion, looking west over the ruins of the Late Roman basilica


In addition are a smaller number of objects acquired by the Museum over the years said to be from ancient Kourion, whose precise findspot is uncertain. Finally, a small group of prehistoric (Neolithic and Chalcolithic) items  from the sites of Sotira and Erimi excavated in the 20th century AD are the earliest periods represented in the British Museum collection. Although the latter sites date from the 5th and 4th millennia BC respectively, more recent discoveries have extended the history of human activity in the Kourion area as early as 11,000 BC, but also expanded considerably our knowledge of later phases. Not every major phase or site of this long history therefore is represented in the British Museum collection, but site plans and images of objects are provided for all periods to outline the archaeological narrative for the general reader and to place the older discoveries within a modern scientific context.

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