Pera-Frangissa: A sanctuary of Apollo in the area of ancient Tamassos

Sin­ce 2020 AMRICHA has been fun­ding a pro­ject by the Uni­ver­si­ties of Frank­furt am Main and Kiel, which is dedi­ca­ted to rese­ar­ching the Sanc­tua­ry of Apol­lo in Pera-Fran­­gis­­sa (Tam­assos). It pur­sues the goal of exami­ning the histo­ry, spa­ti­al struc­tu­ring and ritu­al use of a rural Cypri­ot cult site through detail­ed excava­ti­on and docu­men­ta­ti­on accor­ding to modern standards.

The histo­ry of the project

When the Ger­man archaeo­lo­gist Max Ohne­­falsch-Rich­­ter recei­ved his doc­to­ra­te in Leip­zig in 1891 with a the­sis on Cypri­ot “Cul­tus­stät­ten”, he was able to list 72 sanc­tua­ries that were spread across the island. Due to the undis­tur­bed pre­ser­va­ti­on and the extre­me­ly rich finds, he descri­bed the sanc­tua­ry of Apol­lo in Fran­gis­sa as the most important of them. This site, which is inland near the anci­ent city of Tam­assos, he dis­co­ver­ed hims­elf in 1885 and exami­ned it in an excava­ti­on cam­paign that las­ted only for 17 days. He was able to unco­ver more than 500 sta­tu­es made of lime­s­tone or ter­ra­cot­ta, some of colos­sal size, well over 3 meters high and often of high artis­tic qua­li­ty and excel­lent pre­ser­va­ti­on. He wan­ted to publish the results of his excava­ti­on in a detail­ed and rich­ly illus­tra­ted publi­ca­ti­on. Howe­ver, this never hap­pen­ed for various reasons. In the Leip­zig dis­ser­ta­ti­on of 1891 he only published a flo­or plan that reflects the shape of the sanc­tua­ry: It was a wal­led, open cour­ty­ard with a cen­tral buil­ding with a semicir­cu­lar apse, which, accor­ding to its inter­pre­ta­ti­on, is to be addres­sed as a roofed main cult area. In his two-volu­­me work “Kypros, die Bibel und Homer”, published two years later, Ohne­­falsch-Rich­­ter also published two small lime­s­tone figu­ri­nes, which, howe­ver, could hard­ly con­vey the impres­si­on of the wealth of the finds. The most important finds could be expor­ted out of the coun­try due to the then appli­ca­ble law and they lar­ge­ly dis­ap­peared from the sce­ne. When the Cyprus Muse­um in Nico­sia was reor­ga­ni­zed, the finds that remain­ed in Cyprus lost their loca­ti­on and can the­r­e­fo­re only be iden­ti­fied to a small ext­ent in the Cyprus Museum’s rich coll­ec­tions. Final­ly, the excava­ti­on site of Fran­gis­sa, which was back­fil­led and leve­led in 1885 imme­dia­te­ly after the archaeo­lo­gi­cal work was com­ple­ted, was soon for­got­ten. Until recent­ly, the exact loca­ti­on of the sanc­tua­ry was unknown and various con­tra­dic­ting loca­liza­ti­ons have been given in the sci­en­ti­fic literature.

A rese­arch pro­ject by Dr. Mat­thi­as Recke (Goe­the Uni­ver­si­ty Frank­furt am Main) has set the goal of iden­ti­fy­ing and publi­shing the sta­tu­es found in the sanc­tua­ry. So far, objects from Fran­gis­sa have been found in seven dif­fe­rent muse­ums around the world and over 80% of the finds have been brought tog­e­ther again. When pro­ces­sing the finds, howe­ver, it quick­ly beca­me appa­rent that a com­pre­hen­si­ve pic­tu­re of the histo­ry of this important sanc­tua­ry can only be crea­ted if the site its­elf is explo­red again and the Ohne­­falsch-Rich­­ter excava­ti­on is uncovered.

The eva­lua­ti­on of archi­ve mate­ri­al from Ger­man, Eng­lish and Cana­di­an archi­ves and inten­si­ve inspec­tions on Cyprus its­elf made it pos­si­ble to limit the loca­ti­on of the sanc­tua­ry to a nar­row val­ley in the sou­thwest of the modern vil­la­ge of Pera Orin­is. Howe­ver, sin­ce the­re were no more visi­ble remains in the area, the exact loca­ti­on could not be deter­mi­ned in this way. The preli­mi­na­ry results, howe­ver, gave rise to jus­ti­fied hopes that the site of the old excava­ti­on could be found again using modern rese­arch methods and that a new excava­ti­on could be taken in consideration.

When AMRICHA and Dr. Mat­thi­as Recke first met in April 2019, it soon beca­me clear that the­re was poten­ti­al for a fruitful col­la­bo­ra­ti­on bet­ween Leip­zig and Frank­furt, and work on site was alre­a­dy plan­ned for the coming year. The uni­ver­si­ties of Kiel and Nico­sia were sub­se­quent­ly won over as fur­ther coope­ra­ti­on part­ners for the imple­men­ta­ti­on of an initi­al pro­s­pec­ting campaign.


Ques­ti­ons and objectives 

The aim of the pro­ject is to pro­cess and docu­ment the old excava­ti­on from 1885 accor­ding to modern stan­dards. A rene­wed inves­ti­ga­ti­on of this site is very desi­ra­ble for various reasons.

The excava­ti­on report by Ohne­­falsch-Rich­­ter shows that the num­e­rous bases of the figu­res that were found in situ remain­ed on site when the area was back­fil­led after the excava­tions had ended. A detail­ed recor­ding of the­se sta­tue bases and in par­ti­cu­lar their foot­prints the­r­e­fo­re pro­mi­ses that the rela­ti­onship bet­ween the figu­res and their ori­gi­nal bases and thus the chro­no­lo­gi­cal sequence of their instal­la­ti­on can be reco­gni­zed. This would result in com­ple­te­ly uni­que insights into the con­se­cra­ti­on prac­ti­ce and the spa­ti­al struc­tu­ring of a sanc­tua­ry, which has not yet been found any­whe­re in Cyprus in this way.

The docu­ments from the excava­ti­on that have been pre­ser­ved also indi­ca­te that the sanc­tua­ry has not been com­ple­te­ly unco­ver­ed. Tri­al tren­ches, which are docu­men­ted in a sketch, show the appro­xi­ma­te ext­ent, which appar­ent­ly extends far bey­ond the excava­ted area. Accor­din­gly, the­re is hope that the pro­ces­sing of the old excava­ti­on will be sup­ple­men­ted in the future by new excava­tions of fur­ther sanc­tua­ry are­as. Par­ti­cu­lar atten­ti­on will be paid to pot­tery, becau­se this genus was com­ple­te­ly igno­red during the excava­tions by Ohne­­falsch-Rich­­ter; so far not a sin­gle sherd from Fran­gis­sa is recor­ded! A careful ana­ly­sis of the pot­tery found and their stra­ti­fi­ca­ti­on should pro­vi­de exten­si­ve infor­ma­ti­on about the deve­lo­p­ment over time and the ritu­al use of the sanctuary.



The sci­en­ti­fic acti­vi­ties fun­ded by AMRICHA not only finan­ci­al­ly but also per­so­nal­ly have cle­ar­ly con­firm­ed the loca­ti­on of the Apol­lon sanc­tua­ry of Fran­gis­sa in 2020, which was dis­co­ver­ed by Ohne­­falsch-Rich­­ter in 1885 and exami­ned in an emer­gen­cy excava­ti­on. In the cour­se of this first 2020 cam­paign, a sur­vey­ing net­work has alre­a­dy been set up and a local GIS sys­tem crea­ted. A geo­re­fe­ren­ced 3D model of the val­ley was crea­ted by fly­ing a UAV over the enti­re area and the basis for an ele­va­ti­on map was laid. Our inten­ti­on is to start a regu­lar excava­ti­on the­re in spring 2021.

The uni­ver­si­ties of Frank­furt (Dr. M. Recke) and Kiel (PD Dr. P. Kobusch) plan to car­ry out the excava­tions as part of a field school in order to give stu­dents of clas­si­cal archeo­lo­gy an insight into prac­ti­cal field work with the most modern methods of digi­tiza­ti­on and docu­men­ta­ti­on. Tech­ni­cal sup­port will again be pro­vi­ded by AMRICHA, who will also over­see the con­ser­va­ti­on work of finds and archi­tec­tu­ral ele­ments (Alex­an­der Gatz­sche M.A.). We are again gra­teful for the sup­port from the Depart­ment of Anti­qui­ties Cyprus and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cyprus, who not only actively sup­port­ed the 2020 cam­paign, but also offer per­spec­ti­ves for a long-term, sci­en­ti­fi­cal­ly signi­fi­cant and pro­mi­sing project.

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