Paphos (Chypre): Skeleton in well and ancient surgery among archaeological finds
The ancient theatre at Nea Paphos
Archaeologists have discovered what they say could be the remains of a doctor’s surgery complete with a kit of seven surgical instruments during excavations at Nea Paphos, the capital of Cyprus during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
The archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland, also found a human skeleton at the bottom of a well, the antiquities department revealed on Monday.
The well’s fill mainly consisted of pottery fragments dated to the late Hellenistic period. “The most surprising finding in the well was a human skeleton, found at a depth of 3.5m,” it said. The skeletal remains will be analysed in the next study campaign.
The widest range of works at the site were conducted at a partly investigated room uncovered in 2013 along the east portico of the Agora.
Here, a number of new rooms were revealed. The most important discoveries came from Rooms 15 and 16m, the department said.
In Room 15 two intact glass vessels, which had avoided destruction probably caused by an earthquake were discovered.
The objects had been deposited in a kind of box with possibly an iron handle. Two intact oil lamps were found in the box, as well as pottery sherds.
In the immediate vicinity, two bronze coin hoards were discovered, “probably originally kept in a purse”, it said.
The coins, which the department said probably form one hoard divided into two parts, had been cleaned and examined preliminarily. They date to the first half of the reign of Emperor Hadrian.
Hadrian was Roman emperor from 117 AD to 138 AD and is known for building Hadrian’s Wall, which marked the northern limit of Britannia. He also rebuilt the Pantheon and the Temple of Venus and Roma.
On the floor of Room 16 in Nea Paphos, a small intact glass lab-type beaker and a toolkit of seven surgical instruments – six bronze and one iron – were discovered along with the remains of a bronze box.
“Preliminary research shows that these objects have analogies inter alia with the famous House of the Surgeon in Pompeii and also with the ‘ophthalmologist’s office’ in Lyon,” the antiquities department said.
“The glass vessels could also be related to this medical activity, suggesting the remains of a surgical office that could have functioned in Rooms 15 and 16. The good state of preservation of all of these impressive finds suggests that the collapsed rooms were probably never rebuilt.”
Preliminary analysis of the diagnostic material from the finds’ contexts dates the material to the years of Hadrian’s reign, which the department said could coincide with the earthquake mentioned in ancient written sources and dated by modern scholars to 126 AD.
In another trench the remains of a possible furnace, foundry crucibles and production waste were found in a deep pit.
These finds suggest that during the period preceding the erection of the east portico, there functioned a workshop related to the casting of bronze.
The economic character of the area is also confirmed by the presence of a large number of amphorae and utility ceramics.
“Generally, research suggests that the Agora was a place of intensive construction activity, dating to the time of the founding of the city and later,” the department added.
“Not only is trade indicated by small shops but also, medical activity seems to have taken place.”
Meanwhile, archaeologists from the University of Sydney were carrying out separate excavations at the Hellenistic-Roman theatre of Nea Paphos.
The site was previously declared the oldest theatre in Cyprus as it was built around 300 BC and used for performances and entertainment for more than six centuries, until the 4th century AD that appears to have ended with it being used as a storehouse.
“During the Hellenistic and Roman period, the theatre went through several phases of architectural reconstructions,” the antiquities department said.
The recent archaeological research aimed to understand the urban planning of the broader area of the theatre. Excavated Roman road sections in the south of the building’s remains and a fountain revealed a wall, “probably the medieval period, which will be explored further in the future”.
On top of Fabrika hill behind the auditorium are the remains of a large medieval or later building which had been identified during previous seasons.
“The presence here of a large number of containers destined for the processing and storage of sugar, strengthens the view that this building probably served as a storage room or building where manufacturing operations conducted. Also, the building is an indication that the use of space changed when theatre stopped hosting shows,” the department said.
It said this all occurred when Paphos functioned as an important centre for the Crusaders. “This region of ancient Nea Paphos is not particularly known although investigations gradually reveal that it functioned as a living core activities, particularly in the 2nd century. AD, a period during which the road was one of the main roads of the Roman town,” the department said.
Both the Australian and Polish teams will continue its investigations in 2017.