Kition (Chypre): excavated the neoria

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Cyprus kition phoenician plaque credit department of antiquities cyprus 1A limestone plaque with Phoenician writing was uncovered in archaeological digs this past year that took place, in part, under a former tennis court in Kition, Cyprus. Credit: Department of Antiquities, Republic of Cyprus

A Phoenician plaque, a stone pillar and the remains of boatsheds were unearthed as a result of 2021’s archaeological excavations in Kition-Pampoula, Cyprus, the Department of Antiquities announced last Friday.

The archaeologists working under the auspices of the Department of Antiquities released their year-end report of the excavations that took place during 2021 on the part of the French Archaeological Mission at ancient Kition (Larnaka-Pampoula).

The area’s excellent natural harbor was even mentioned by the ancient Greek geographer Strabo; the extent of the ancient harbor was verified by the archaeologists, who uncovered boat sheds there that once housed the magnificent ships of that era, the triremes.

The Kition area was known for its worship of the Cypriot goddess Aphrodite; when the area was ruled by the seagoing peoples known as the Phoenicians, she was worshiped under the name Astarte.

2021 Kition dig excavated the neoria, exploration of Archaic, Geometric levels

There were three main objectives of last year’s dig, including the completion of the excavation of the neoria, which had been exposed during previous fieldwork (1984-1999). The completion had been delayed for years due to the unfortunate presence of modern tennis courts on part of the archaeological site.

Additionally, the archaeologists wanted to further explore of the stratigraphy of the site down to Archaic and Geometric levels and to further expose levels of the “transitional period” from as far back as the 12th century BC.

Two trenches in the northern and eastern parts of the site (under the former tennis courts) proved that the basin extended over the whole area of the modern archaeological site.

Excavation of the neoria made possible after tennis court relocated

The “closed harbor” mentioned by the ancient Greek geographer and historian Strabo was a naturally protected basin, which was accessed by the North, and not by the East, and was linked to Kathari Bay, further north.

The archaeologists painted a picture of the glory of ancient Greece, saying that when coming from the north, triremes could be handled more easily than had been previously thought, in order to be hauled stern first onto the ramps of the boatsheds.

The excavation of the neoria was finally completed thanks to the moving of the tennis courts, archaeologists noted in their annual report of their dig.

Boatshed cyprus kition credit cyprus dept of antiquities 696x492The boatshed at the harbor, dating back to the Archaic era. On the left: the pillar base belonging to the eastern row of the 7th boat ramp Credit: A. Rabot/ Cyprus Department of Antiquities

Phoenician plaque, other inscribed materials shows scribe’s office at ancient harbor

Εxcavation to the East of the boatsheds revealed at least one additional ramp (fig. 1), evidenced by a pillar base. This base is constructed of a huge limestone block resting on a strong massif of blocks. To the East extends a sandstone wall, which connects with another base-like structure, probably functioning as part of a closing wall of the building, the archaeologists say.

As a result of excavations at the site, the researchers believe that a building may be reconstructed comprised of seven parallel rows of ramps, open to the harbor to the north, delimited by terracing walls on its western and southern sides and by a wall made of a succession of bases and supporting pillars on its eastern side.

Exploration of the Iron Age stratigraphy in this trench reached Classical levels that represent the years 510 – 323 BC.

Boatshed pillar cyprus kition credit dept of antiquities cyprus 600x900Pillar base framing the 7th ramp of the boatsheds to the east, viewed from the north. Credit: Dept. of Antiquities, Republic of Cyprus

Architectural features from that era are poorly preserved, the report states, but a pit was excavated which the archaeologists found filled with Phoenician ostraca, or inscribed materials. This concentration of administrative documents proves the existence in the vicinity of a scribal office, linked to the royal administration.

The variety of inscribed materials is striking, including pottery sherds, limestone and gypsum plaques — and even pebbles, the archaeologists say.

A settlement dating all the way back to the “transitional period” from the 12th to the 11th century BC, was further exposed to the north. Part of a very well-preserved house was uncovered, with a succession of floor-levels, with limestone floors resting on a layer of small pebbles, a hearth and a possible artisanal area.

The French team at Kition- Pampoula worked under the direction of Dr. Sabinne Fourrier from Lyon2 University during their 2021 dig.