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Key archaeological sites in the Maroni area continued


At the same time that the community of Tsaroukkas was developing into an important harbour town, another settlement was emerging 500m to the north-west at Vournes (British Museum Site C). Excavations by Gerald Cadogan between 1982 and 1989 revealed an important sequence of building remains spanning the LC I–IIC period, which, as at Tsaroukkas, were also associated with a contemporary building ground during the earlier part of the LBA.[6]  The structures at Vournes include a monumental ashlar-built complex, which was probably the administrative centre of the area during the LC IIC period (late 14th and 13th centuries BC). Carbon-14 dates obtained from the excavations, in combination with the carefully recorded stratigraphic evidence, provide an unusually precise chronological framework for the history of the site.[7]

The excavators have identified three main phases.[8]  Vournes I, dating to the LC I period (c. 1650–1450 BC), comprises a series of fragmentary walls and floor deposits that include evidence of foreign contacts in the form of sherds of Canaanite jars and Tell el-Yahudiyeh ware, as well as a higher proportion of locally-made fine wares than is usual in a domestic structure of this period. In the latest level of this phase, dating to the earlier 15th century, important evidence for contact with the Aegean is also present in the form of pottery imports. The preserved parts of one building from this phase measured 12.4m x 8.8m, though later constructions have destroyed most of what was probably a much larger complex. This phase is contemporary with the important tombs at Kapsalaoudhia discovered during the early seasons of excavation at Vournes, 650m to the north-west.[9]

The Basin Building at Maroni-Vournes, dating to the later 15th or 14th century BC 


During Vournes II, corresponding to LC IIA–B, an enigmatic structure known as the Basin Building was constructed in the central part of the excavated area on a different alignment to those of the previous level. This was a thick-walled square building some 3.6m x 3.9m in area, inside which was a sunken basin 1.85m x 1.5m in extent and 1m deep. Both the unusual form and the use of cut masonry suggest that this was a structure with a special function, perhaps ceremonial in nature. Traces of contemporary walls and floors have been detected under the later buildings (Vournes III), while many of the tombs underlying the succeeding level also seem to have been in use at this time, to judge by the fragments of Mycenaean pottery of 14th-century BC date found in and around the chambers. The large tomb examined by the British Museum in this area in 1897, from which one of the bronze door-hinges was preserved, was probably used during this phase and emphasises the social importance of this part of the wider Maroni settlement.

Vournes III, dating to the LC IIC period, witnessed a major transformation in the appearance of the site. A monumental structure comprising three distinct parts and built with large quantities of finely cut and dressed masonry was erected on the highest part of the site, measuring around 30.5m x 18.5–20.5m. Known as the ‘Ashlar Building’ because of the extensive use of finely cut stone in its construction, the complex consisted of a series of rooms used for large-scale storage in gigantic pithoi (jars), metal-working, olive oil processing and textile weaving. Massive exterior walls up to 2m thick in places may have supported an upper floor. The structure may also have hosted ceremonial functions related to the building’s likely role as an administrative and ceremonial centre for the wider Maroni area.

As at Tsaroukkas, the construction of this building resulted in the disturbance of many of the older tombs in this area, some of which were used as foundation trenches for the outer walls. Manning’s suggestion (mentioned earlier) that the destruction of these older tombs was a deliberate attempt by a new ruling élite to destroy the memory of older groups represented by their traditional burials is particularly convincing in this context because of the undoubted importance and wealth of the inhabitants of the Ashlar Building. Where the inhabitants of this structure buried their dead however remains a mystery. 

Adjacent to the Ashlar Building, but separated from it by a narrow street, was a similarly proportioned structure known as the West Building, also erected early in LC IIC. It was divided internally into a series of aisles, suggestive of a storage magazine, but this is uncertain. Both the poorer quality masonry, and the (albeit limited) artefactual evidence, suggest that the complex was subordinate to the Ashlar Building, but nonetheless contributes to the sense of economic power and importance of the inhabitants of Vournes during this time.

The exact function of Vournes in relation to other sites in the area, including Tsaroukkas, remains unclear, though the presence of the Ashlar Building and West Building suggest a major economic and administrative complex similar to the contemporary (but much larger) North-Eastern quarter at Kalavasos-Ayios Dhimitrios. Survey around the building suggests that the complex stood on its own as an independent unit, though other settlement scatters were identified fairly close by, including that at Aspres, which seems to have included a large-scale storage centre, to judge by the masses of monumental pithos sherds found on the surface during archaeological survey.

Unfortunately, no intact tomb deposits are known from this area during the LC II period, so it is impossible to determine how élite groups compared in their funerary behaviour to their contemporaries in other areas of southern and eastern Cyprus. Fragments of Mycenaean Pictorial Style kraters found during the Vournes excavations – some of which certainly came from nearby tombs – suggest that its wealthier LC II inhabitants, like their neighbours at Tsaroukkas and Ayios Dhimitrios, held lavish feasts and ceremonies in honour of the dead, to honour the deceased but also to compete for status and power among the living.

  • ^ [6] - Preliminary reports of these campaigns can be found in the Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus between 1983 and 1992; also Cadogan 1989 for an overview.
  • ^ [7] - Manning et al. 2001.
  • ^ [8] - Summarised in Cadogan et al. 2001.
  • ^ [9] - Cadogan 1984, 2–3 and fig. 4.