Pera-Frangissa • Season 2023

The results of the excava­tions in Fran­gis­sa in 2023 are ground-brea­king and mark an important suc­cess of many years of endea­vour. The remains of walls and struc­tures that Max Ohne­falsch-Rich­ter had alre­a­dy excava­ted and docu­men­ted in a plan at the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry have final­ly been dis­co­ver­ed. This means that the sanc­tua­ry struc­tures of Fran­gis­sa, which were con­side­red lost for over 140 years, are now available for cri­ti­cal revi­si­on. At the same time, they can be lin­ked for the first time to the new­ly dis­co­ver­ed buil­ding com­ple­xes found in recent years. In this way, the struc­tu­re of the enti­re com­plex can now be much bet­ter understood.

Important steps towards the loca­li­sa­ti­on and reco­very of the Fran­gis­sa sanc­tua­ry, which was dis­co­ver­ed in 1885, have alre­a­dy been achie­ved in pre­vious cam­paigns, as can be read in the reports lin­ked here: After the ana­ly­sis of finds from the pre­pa­ra­to­ry 2020 sur­vey cam­paign had made it clear that the­re must have been an anci­ent sanc­tua­ry in the area under inves­ti­ga­ti­on, the first archi­tec­tu­ral remains were found right at the start of the excava­ti­on in 2021. Howe­ver, despi­te their good pre­ser­va­ti­on, the walls could not be recon­ci­led with the plan of the 1885 excava­ti­on. The fact that the site of the famous Apol­lo sanc­tua­ry of Fran­gis­sa had inde­ed been redis­co­ver­ed was con­firm­ed in 2022 by the dis­co­very of ter­ra­cot­ta frag­ments that matched the breaka­ge of voti­ve sta­tu­es that Ohne­falsch-Rich­ter had excava­ted in 1885. At the same time, howe­ver, it beca­me clear that the exten­si­ve archi­tec­tu­ral struc­tures belon­ging to an exten­si­ve buil­ding mea­su­ring at least 14 x 20 met­res were undis­tur­bed by modern inter­ven­ti­ons and that a pre­vious­ly unknown com­plex had been dis­co­ver­ed here, the inves­ti­ga­ti­on of which offe­red the oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain uni­que insights into the struc­tures of the anci­ent sanctuary.

Based on this level of know­ledge, the rese­arch objec­ti­ves for 2023 were cle­ar­ly defined:

(a) the pre­cise loca­li­sa­ti­on of the wal­led voti­ve cour­ty­ard excava­ted in 1885,

b) in-depth rese­arch into the new­ly dis­co­ver­ed archi­tec­tu­ral com­plex — par­ti­cu­lar­ly with regard to its exact appearance and function

c) To cla­ri­fy the spa­ti­al and func­tion­al rela­ti­onship bet­ween the two archi­tec­tu­ral complexes.

The cam­paign, led by Dr Mat­thi­as Recke (Uni­ver­si­ty of Frank­furt) and PD Dr Phil­ipp Kobusch (Kiel Uni­ver­si­ty), las­ted from 6 Sep­tem­ber to 7 Octo­ber 2024 and invol­ved stu­dents from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Frank­furt and Kiel as well as stu­dents from Cyprus Uni­ver­si­ty in Nico­sia. The team was com­ple­men­ted by an archaeo­lo­gist from Cyprus, Dr Thea Chris­to­fo­rou, as well as the expe­ri­en­ced team of con­ser­va­tors Ire­ne Pamer-Gatz­sche and Alex­an­der Gatz­sche (AMRICHA Leip­zig); the lat­ter also sup­port­ed the work with his tech­ni­cal exper­ti­se (dro­ne pho­to­gra­phy; 3D scan­ning). The ani­mal bones were iden­ti­fied by Dr Ange­los Had­ji­ko­u­mis (Cyprus Insti­tu­te) and the pot­tery by Dr Anna Geor­gi­a­dou (Uni­ver­si­ty of Cyprus). Our sin­ce­re thanks go to all tho­se involved.

One of the most important suc­ces­ses of the 2023 cam­paign was the unco­ve­ring of a wall sec­tion run­ning dia­go­nal­ly to the pre­vious­ly unco­ver­ed buil­ding remains. The dis­co­very of a mas­si­ve sta­tue base at the head of this wall, with its uni­que, cha­rac­te­ristic shape with a pro­fi­led recess and late­ral pro­jec­tions, final­ly enab­led the long-awai­ted cor­re­la­ti­on with the 1885 excava­ti­on: the base is mark­ed in its unmist­aka­ble shape on the stone plan by Ohne­falsch-Rich­ter at exact­ly this point. This means that it is now pos­si­ble to cor­rect­ly ali­gn the old plan and plan the next steps to unco­ver the sta­tue cour­ty­ard. Unco­ve­ring the area that had alre­a­dy been excava­ted tur­ned out to be more time-con­sum­ing than expec­ted, as Ohne­falsch-Rich­ter — as he also sta­ted in his reports — had parts of the mason­ry torn down in search of inscrip­ti­ons. Num­e­rous remains of voti­ve sta­tu­es and ter­ra­cot­tas were found in the rub­ble of the walls and the back­fill of the old excava­ti­on area, mea­ning that a very careful approach was also requi­red when unco­ve­ring the site.

The eva­lua­ti­on of the infor­ma­ti­on known to date now reve­als the fol­lo­wing pic­tu­re: the sanc­tua­ry, which was much lar­ger than pre­vious­ly assu­med, con­sis­ted of two direct­ly adjoi­ning are­as that ful­fil­led com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent func­tions. The open cour­ty­ard, docu­men­ted by Max Ohne­falsch-Rich­ter in 1885, ser­ved as a place to dis­play the voti­ve offe­rings in the form of sta­tu­es made of lime­s­tone and ter­ra­cot­ta — some of which were much lar­ger than life. The­re was also an enc­lo­sed cult cham­ber and the altar whe­re sacri­fices were made to the god Apol­lo. A sur­pri­sing dis­co­very was the obser­va­ti­on that the den­se­ly packed voti­ve offe­ring sta­tu­es on the south-facing hills­i­de, which was par­ti­al­ly enca­sed by the enclo­sing wall, stood part­ly on brick steps that rose upwards and pre­sen­ted them­sel­ves to the visi­tor as if in a theat­re. This crea­ted the image of a den­se stag­ge­ring of the voti­ves wit­hout rest­ric­ting their visi­bi­li­ty and effect. Anci­ent voti­ve offe­rings from the Archaic peri­od (7th-6th cen­tu­ry BC) were evi­dent­ly pla­ced next to voti­ves from the Clas­si­cal or Hel­le­ni­stic peri­ods (5th-1st cen­tu­ry BC). The ext­ent to which this was the result of a suc­ces­si­ve pla­ce­ment of the sta­tu­es or pos­si­bly the result of a rear­ran­ge­ment in the Hel­le­ni­stic peri­od will be ans­we­red by the com­ple­te unco­ve­ring of the area.

To the east of this sacred cour­ty­ard is a lar­ge buil­ding with four sur­roun­ding halls which, accor­ding to the finds, was used for ritu­al ban­quets in honour of Apol­lo. The halls, which were open to the cour­ty­ard and regu­lar­ly sup­port­ed by pil­lars, also offe­red visi­tors to this rural sanc­tua­ry pro­tec­tion from the sun and rain. It is also con­ceiva­ble that visi­tors could spend the night here under the shel­ter of the roofs.

Ana­ly­sing the finds from the 2023 excava­ti­on cam­paign also yiel­ded sur­pri­sing results. In addi­ti­on to the famous “Colos­sus of Tam­assos”, which is one of the most monu­men­tal exhi­bits of the Cyprus Muse­um in Nico­sia and was found in situ in 1885 in the Apol­lo sanc­tua­ry of Fran­gis­sa, ano­ther figu­re of a simi­lar size has been found. So far, only a few frag­ments of it have been found in 2023, but they can be aug­men­ted by matching finds from the 1885 excavation.

In a rese­arch pro­ject by Ger­man archaeo­lo­gists clo­se­ly lin­ked to the excava­tions, most of the pie­ces from the 1885 excava­ti­on in inter­na­tio­nal muse­ums were digi­tal­ly scan­ned in March and April 2024. This will make it pos­si­ble to iden­ti­fy rela­ted pie­ces more quick­ly in future, espe­ci­al­ly the new voti­ves found in the coming years, and to obtain a com­pre­hen­si­ve pic­tu­re of the ran­ge of voti­ves and voti­ve art of the peri­od in gene­ral ins­tead of a wealth of indi­vi­du­al frag­ments. For exam­p­le, it is now pos­si­ble to pro­vi­de phy­si­cal evi­dence of the affi­lia­ti­on of indi­vi­du­al heads and bodies by matching 3D repli­cas with ori­gi­nal arte­facts The con­ti­nua­tion of the work pro­mi­ses a varie­ty of in-depth insights into the ritu­al and social life of anci­ent Cyprus. The excava­ti­on pro­ject makes it pos­si­ble to under­stand the func­tion­al struc­tu­re of such a sanc­tua­ry in a spe­cial way. The work will the­r­e­fo­re con­ti­nue this year. The rese­arch has so far been gene­rous­ly fun­ded by the AMRICHA Rese­arch Insti­tu­te Leip­zig, who­se direc­tor Alex­an­der Mali­os has once again pled­ged sub­stan­ti­al sup­port for the cur­rent year.