Pera-Frangissa • Season 2021

In 2020, archaeo­lo­gists from the Uni­ver­si­ties of Frank­furt and Kiel suc­cee­ded in loca­ting the long-lost anci­ent sanc­tua­ry of Apol­lo at Tam­assos-Fran­gis­sa in a val­ley not far from the vil­la­ge of Pera Orin­is by means of an archaeo­lo­gi­cal and geo­phy­si­cal sur­vey. This first suc­cessful cam­paign was alre­a­dy sup­port­ed by AMRICHA both finan­ci­al­ly and in terms of personnel.

As a con­ti­nua­tion of this suc­cessful coope­ra­ti­on, the first excava­ti­on cam­paign in this area now took place in 2021. The goal of the cur­rent acti­vi­ties is, on the one hand, to redis­co­ver the archi­tec­tu­re dis­co­ver­ed in 1885 in order to docu­ment the anci­ent remains that were left in situ accor­ding to modern sci­en­ti­fic stan­dards and to cla­ri­fy ques­ti­ons about the buil­ding histo­ry. On the other hand, the excava­ti­on is to be exten­ded to are­as that have not been inves­ti­ga­ted so far, in order to record a stra­ti­gra­phi­cal­ly relia­ble sequence of use pha­ses and thus to be able to recon­s­truct the func­tio­ning of an anci­ent rural sanc­tua­ry on Cyprus over a lon­ger peri­od of time — in this case from the Archaic peri­od to Hellenism.

The first meters into the past

The excava­ti­on took place from 18th of Sep­tem­ber to 22nd of Octo­ber 2021 as part of a field school under the direc­tion of Dr. Mat­thi­as Recke (Uni­ver­si­ty of Frank­furt) and PD Dr. Phil­ipp Kobusch (Uni­ver­si­ty of Kiel). Par­al­lel to gai­ning sci­en­ti­fic know­ledge, the pro­ject also pur­sued the goal of tea­ching the par­ti­ci­pa­ting stu­dents from Ger­ma­ny, Ita­ly and Cyprus fun­da­men­tal tech­ni­ques in excava­ti­on and (digi­tal) docu­men­ta­ti­on, as well as the basics of Cypri­ot archaeo­lo­gy. AMRICHA also pro­vi­ded sub­stan­ti­al sup­port in this cam­paign: Mag. Phil. Ire­ne Pamer M.A. and Alex­an­der Gatz­sche M.A. under­took the res­to­ra­ti­on and con­ser­va­ti­on of the finds; the lat­ter also pro­vi­ded tech­ni­cal sup­port for the mea­su­ring and digi­ti­sa­ti­on work.

The pro­ject was made pos­si­ble by the kind per­mis­si­on of the Depart­ment of Anti­qui­ties Cyprus, which encou­ra­ged and sup­port­ed the work in many ways. Spe­cial thanks are owed to the Direc­tor of the Depart­ment of Anti­qui­ties, Dr Mari­na Solo­mi­dou-Iero­ny­mi­dou and the Cura­tor of Excava­tions, Dr. Gior­gos Geor­giou, who also orga­nis­ed the trans­port of the lar­ge-sca­le finds to the Cyprus Museum.

The new excava­ti­on initi­al­ly con­cen­tra­ted on an area in the south of the small river run­ning through the val­ley. Here, a geo­re­fe­ren­ced grid with qua­drants of 5 to 5 m was set up, in which a total of six tren­ches of dif­fe­rent sizes were ope­ned, each of which fol­lo­wed dif­fe­rent ques­ti­ons. Among other things, they ser­ved to check and veri­fy the results from the pre­vious geo­phy­si­cal sur­vey and to cla­ri­fy the anci­ent topo­gra­phi­cal contexts.

During the excava­ti­on, a num­ber of anci­ent walls were docu­men­ted. Some of the walls are very long and are demons­tra­b­ly con­nec­ted to each other and thus form lar­ger spa­ti­al units. They belong to a buil­ding of unknown func­tion, at least 8 x 11 m in size. Their anci­ent ori­gin can be regard­ed as cer­tain. This is pro­ven on the one hand by the buil­ding tech­ni­que, which dif­fers from the sur­roun­ding more recent ter­race and retai­ning walls. On the other hand, seve­ral undis­tur­bed, cle­ar­ly anci­ent, lay­ers could be recor­ded in con­nec­tion with the­se walls. In con­trast, no finds were made that would speak for a post-antique sett­le­ment in the area. Howe­ver, anci­ent, post-antique and recent inter­ven­ti­ons can be reco­g­nis­ed in the soil in many cases, which dis­turb the ori­gi­nal anci­ent fea­tures. Among them was a straight, deep ditch cut into the rocky, har­den­ed sub­soil which was later fil­led in with stones and loo­se earth con­tai­ning only a few anci­ent finds. It can be asso­cia­ted with the excava­ti­on work of the 19th cen­tu­ry under Max Ohne­falsch-Rich­ter. Tog­e­ther with ano­ther his­to­ri­cal tri­al trench, which was alre­a­dy iden­ti­fied as such in 2020, it vivid­ly docu­ments the working methods of the archaeo­lo­gist from Leip­zig in the 19th cen­tu­ry. The new­ly dis­co­ver­ed walls can­not be iden­ti­cal with the struc­tures docu­men­ted at tho­se times — their cour­se can­not be recon­ci­led with the published stone plan, so that the excava­ti­on was alre­a­dy able to unco­ver pre­vious­ly unknown anci­ent are­as in the first year, show­ing that the sanc­tua­ry was far more exten­si­ve than could be assu­med on the basis of the plan published in 1891.

The ana­ly­sis of the walls and their arran­ge­ment made it pos­si­ble to distin­gu­ish bet­ween seve­ral pha­ses of anci­ent con­s­truc­tion and usa­ge. Their inter­pre­ta­ti­on and dating are still dif­fi­cult at the cur­rent sta­te of rese­arch. Howe­ver, they show that the site has a lon­ger and com­plex anci­ent histo­ry, which is also indi­ca­ted by the chro­no­lo­gi­cal spec­trum of the finds, which ran­ge from archaic to Hel­le­ni­stic times.

Frag­ments of sta­tu­es and exo­tic imports

The cha­rac­ter of the finds also shows that this area was inde­ed part of the anci­ent sanc­tua­ry. A lar­ge num­ber of frag­ments of anci­ent sta­tu­es made of ter­ra­cot­ta and lime­s­tone were found, indi­ca­ting inten­si­ve use of the cult site and an acti­ve voti­ve tra­di­ti­on. Among them are not only remains of small sta­tu­et­tes, but also seve­ral frag­ments of lar­ge-sized sta­tu­es, such as the lower part of a sta­tue at least half-life-size. In addi­ti­on, a mas­si­ve lime­s­tone base of a life-size figu­re was reco­ver­ed. A par­ti­cu­lar­ly rare arte­fact are the frag­ments of an ost­rich egg, which as an exo­tic impor­ted item was an exclu­si­ve and pre­cious voti­ve gift to the dei­ty. It attests to the spe­cial attrac­tion of the sanc­tua­ry and its ori­gi­nal wealth.

The rela­ti­onship of the­se buil­ding remains and finds to the core of the sanc­tua­ry unco­ver­ed by Ohne­falsch-Rich­ter can only be cla­ri­fied with the help of fur­ther excava­tions. Howe­ver, the size of the site unco­ver­ed so far, its com­plex con­s­truc­tion histo­ry and the natu­re of the finds alre­a­dy indi­ca­te the gre­at poten­ti­al of this place: Chan­ges and deve­lo­p­ments in use in par­ti­cu­lar offer important clues for the ana­ly­sis of cul­tu­ral con­texts and anci­ent ritu­al prac­ti­ces. The­r­e­fo­re, a con­ti­nua­tion of the excava­tions is plan­ned for the coming year.