The Ministry of Communications and Works, Department of Antiquities announces the completion of this year’s excavations at Tseri-Agkali in Nicosia district, under the direction of Archaeological Officer Efthymia Alphas who was assisted by technician/draughtsperson Mary Chamberlain and technician Elias Christophi. The excavation took place from the 27th July until the 23rd September 2010.
In 1949, in the area of Agkali, approximately 2 km southeast of the modern village of Tseri and close to River Almyros, villagers of Tseri discovered an impressive underground structure with steps which was later recorded in the archives of the Department of Antiquities as an underground cistern of the Roman period. With the passing of the years, the structure filled up with soil and disappeared, until 2006 when the Department relocated it and listed it as a Monument of Schedule A’.
This year’s excavations aimed to remove the soil that filled the structure so that its design, use and dating could be clarified. The investigations have so far revealed 40 steps of an underground staircase built out of limestone. On either of the staircase’s long sides there is a wall, built out of large ashlar sandstones lined with lime mortar. The walls’ interior surfaces, the roof and parts of the steps are covered with hydraulic cement, a water-resistant mortar. The staircase is covered by an impressive arched roof, built from large ashlar sandstones and measuring 10,10 m. in length. This year’s investigations have reached a depth of 8.80 m from the plot’s surface.
The material excavated from the structure’s fill included small quantities of pottery dated from the Archaic period to the Early Christian period (7th c. B.C – 7th c. A.D.). Two terracotta heads (of a horse and of a man), both belonging to Archaic figurines were also found. The pottery collected from the surface of plots in the surrounding area belongs to the same time frame (7th c. B.C – 7th c. A.D). When the underground structure is completely excavated and the necessary analyses are performed, the dating of the building will be clearer.
It is expected that next season’s investigations will reveal the rest of the staircase’s steps and that the underground space to which these steps lead to will be excavated. The underground building excavated at Tseri-Agkali is most probably associated with the exploitation and management of water and it is possibly linked to an underground aquifer. Further investigation will show whether the building is connected to other structures or whether it is directly connected to a natural aquifer. In any case, its monumental nature and the great effort that must have been required for its construction demonstrate that it played an important role in the area.
The excavations at Tseri-Agkali enrich our knowledge on matters that are related to the history of water management in Cyprus and especially in areas that are characterized by extremely arid weather conditions. The inhabitants of these areas had to often deal with the unpleasant consequences of drought and applied various methods of locating, storing and transferring precious water to cover their drinking and irrigation needs and to improve their living conditions in general.