Pera-Frangissa • Season 2022

Anci­ent sanc­tua­ries were intri­ca­te and mul­ti­face­ted sites that not only faci­li­ta­ted ritu­al prac­ti­ces but also ser­ved various social, poli­ti­cal, and eco­no­mic pur­po­ses. This prin­ci­ple also appli­es to the cult sites in anci­ent Cyprus, alt­hough the­se mecha­nisms have recei­ved com­pa­ra­tively litt­le stu­dy here com­pared to anci­ent Greece, for ins­tance. The new excava­ti­on cam­paign at the Fran­gis­sa sanc­tua­ry of Apol­lo has reve­a­led a signi­fi­cant spa­ti­al and likely func­tion­al expan­si­on pha­se during the Hel­le­ni­stic peri­od, shed­ding light on the dyna­mic pro­ces­ses of chan­ge and sub­stan­ti­al struc­tu­ral inter­ven­ti­ons expe­ri­en­ced by rural sanc­tua­ries in Cyprus during this era. Fur­ther rese­arch into this com­plex pres­ents immense poten­ti­al, not only for enhan­cing our under­stan­ding of the site its­elf but also for Cypri­ot sanc­tua­ries in general.

The initi­al excava­ti­on cam­paign in 2021, fun­ded by Amricha, unvei­led the first anci­ent buil­ding struc­tures, con­fir­ming the loca­liza­ti­on of the Fran­gis­sa sanc­tua­ry, which was pre­vious­ly only based on sur­vey data. The team from the Uni­ver­si­ties of Frank­furt and Kiel, led by Mat­thi­as Recke and Phil­ipp Kobusch, deepe­ned the explo­ra­ti­on of the­se struc­tures through the con­ti­nua­tion of excava­ti­on acti­vi­ties and a 5‑week cam­paign in 2022. Once again, the work recei­ved finan­cial and per­son­nel sup­port from Amricha, as well as fun­ding from the ROOTS Clus­ter of Excel­lence at CAU Kiel.

Lar­ger than expec­ted — ext­ent and struc­tu­re of the sanctuary

The recent excava­tions have signi­fi­cant­ly expan­ded our know­ledge of the buil­ding dis­co­ver­ed in 2021. The archi­tec­tu­ral enclo­sure of an open dis­trict, mea­su­ring at least 12 x 17 meters, has been reve­a­led. The walls are meti­cu­lous­ly con­s­truc­ted with careful­ly pla­ced stone plinths, rea­ching heights of up to 1.20 meters. The­se plinths for­med the base for mud-brick mason­ry, which is no lon­ger pre­ser­ved today. The area’s flo­or con­sis­ted of a meti­cu­lous­ly pre­pared, flat rammed earth flo­or, par­ti­al­ly pre­ser­ved despi­te its fra­gi­le nature.

Based on cur­rent know­ledge, this complex’s con­s­truc­tion can be dated to the Hel­le­ni­stic peri­od. Howe­ver, the dis­trict under­went suc­ces­si­ve altera­ti­ons after its initi­al con­s­truc­tion. In a later pha­se, short trans­ver­se walls were erec­ted, pos­si­bly con­nec­ted to a flat stone base that was built later and ran par­al­lel to the enclo­sure walls. At the cur­rent stage of excava­ti­on, this stone base is likely inter­pre­ted as a sup­port struc­tu­re for pil­lars that car­ri­ed the roof of a hall encir­cling all sides. This mea­su­re fur­ther diver­si­fied the poten­ti­al uses of the cour­ty­ard, poten­ti­al­ly ser­ving to pro­tect par­ti­cu­lar­ly valuable voti­ve offe­rings from the weather.

Towards the end of the excava­ti­on, a step­ped struc­tu­re con­s­truc­ted from meti­cu­lous­ly car­ved ash­lars was dis­co­ver­ed in the imme­dia­te vici­ni­ty of the cour­ty­ard area. The­se blocks, of con­sidera­ble size and qua­li­ty, were pre­vious­ly unknown at Fran­gis­sa. The pre­cise trim­ming and use of impor­ted mate­ri­als make this fin­ding excep­tio­nal. Typi­cal­ly, all archi­tec­tu­ral struc­tures within the sanc­tua­ry are made of local lime­s­tone. The com­ple­te unco­ve­ring of this monu­ment in a future cam­paign will great­ly enhan­ce our under­stan­ding of the sanctuary’s lay­out. The fact that this monu­ment is loca­ted out­side the new­ly excava­ted cour­ty­ard com­plex sug­gests that the area uti­li­zed within the con­text of the sanc­tua­ry was even more extensive.

Alt­hough the exact rela­ti­onship bet­ween the Hel­le­ni­stic cour­ty­ard and the old excava­tions, and con­se­quent­ly the main area of the sanc­tua­ry dis­co­ver­ed in the 19th cen­tu­ry, remains unclear at pre­sent, the rich finds, such as voti­ve figu­res, impec­ca­bly pro­ve its con­nec­tion to the sanc­tua­ry. The core of the sanc­tua­ry, docu­men­ted by Max Ohne­falsch-Rich­ter in 1885, also con­sis­ted of an open cour­ty­ard but con­tai­ned a roofed cult buil­ding within it. Based on the dis­co­ver­ed arti­facts, this part of the sanc­tua­ry can be tra­ced back to archaic times. The new­ly found struc­tures are the first evi­dence of a lar­ger exten­si­on pha­se for the Fran­gis­sa sanc­tua­ry, signi­fi­cant­ly expan­ding the built-up area and poten­ti­al uses during Hel­le­ni­stic times. The Hel­le­ni­stic sanc­tua­ry is now known to be more than twice as lar­ge as pre­vious­ly believed.

Small shards bring important insights

Fur­ther­mo­re, the dis­co­very of see­mingly incon­spi­cuous ter­ra­cot­ta frag­ments yiel­ded a par­ti­cu­lar­ly remar­kab­le result. The­se frag­ments belong to a lar­ger-than-life male ter­ra­cot­ta figu­re, simi­lar to the renow­ned Colos­sus of Tam­assos in the Cyprus Muse­um (which ori­gi­na­tes from the same sanc­tua­ry). Like its coun­ter­part, this figu­re was assem­bled from seve­ral indi­vi­du­al parts, and its robe exhi­bi­ted intri­ca­te incis­ed orna­ments. Frag­ments with simi­lar cha­rac­te­ristics had been pre­vious­ly found in 1885 and taken to the muse­um in Nico­sia. The new­ly dis­co­ver­ed frag­ments ali­gn per­fect­ly with the­se old frag­ments, secu­ring the iden­ti­fi­ca­ti­on of the sanc­tua­ry with the site excava­ted in 1885, which had pre­vious­ly been based on num­e­rous cir­cum­stan­ti­al pie­ces of evidence.

The plan­ned con­ti­nua­tion of the excava­ti­on in 2023 will focus on inves­ti­ga­ting the courtyard’s func­tion, as litt­le is curr­ent­ly known about the use of the inner open space. Addi­tio­nal­ly, the pre­cise con­nec­tion bet­ween this exten­si­on and the sanctuary’s core will be explo­red by loca­ting the old excava­ti­on. Only then can we gain a bet­ter under­stan­ding of the sanctuary’s over­all func­tio­ning and the inter­ac­tion among its indi­vi­du­al func­tion­al parts.