On June 20th I flew into the city of Larnaka and then made the trip up to Nicosia. I came to Cyprus to assist Dr. Nick Herrmann analyzing commingled skeletal remains from a series of Hellenistic to Roman period (300 BC to AD 300) tombs located in the city of Nicosia. The tombs from the Ayioi Omoloyites neighborhood were discovered in 2006 during the construction of the Aigaia School of Art and Design. A salvage excavation took place to recover the remains and artifacts. The school incorporated the remaining portion of the tomb into their building and can still be accessed. The tomb contained five sarcophagi as well as 16 loculi (or thekes).
On a day off we visited the art school to see the tomb and take new photographs of the only remaining tomb (Tomb 49). Nick is in the process of creating a 3D model of the tomb, which will show the locations of all the loculi and sarcophagi. The pictures he takes are used to create the 3D reconstruction.
We are conducting our analyses in the House of the Dragoman. The house, known as the Hadjigeorgakis Kornessios, is an Ottoman period mansion which has been transformed into the Cyprus Ethnological Museum. To learn more about the Dragoman and his house click here.
The remains from Tombs 47, 48 and 49 are commingled and fragmented. Having remains from three tombs will allow for analytical comparisons. The first step of analysis is simply sorting the bones in each box by element so a minimum number of individuals (MNI) can be determined. In total, there are 67 boxes and the goal for this summer was to sort and re-box all of the remains. This has successfully been done. We finished off the summer by coding as many of the remains as possible. Coding involves siding the bones and determining which portion of the bone is present. This data is then entered into the Ayioi Omoloyites Osteological Project database. I worked on coding the remains from Tomb 48.
On July 2 I had the pleasure to teach osteology to an adult Cypriot archaeology volunteer from Limassol. I was so impressed with him. He didn’t know much about specific bones, but by the end of the day he was able to pick up the majority of bones and identify them fairly confidently. He had so much enthusiasm and interest in what we are doing and never stopped asking questions about what one can learn from the skeleton. He has come back to help every day since and has helped us greatly.
On Sunday and Monday we took a trip to Paphos, a city on the west coast of Cyprus. On our way there we visited Dr. Andrew McCarthy, the director of the Cyprus-American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI), at the archaeological site of Prasteio Mesorotsos in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains. This multicomponent site is incredible and is being excavated on the side of a rock outcrop. Getting to the site involved an incredibly fun Land Rover ride. One of the intriguing aspects of this site is a Neolithic stone-lined oven they found during excavations and recreated experimentally at a nearby restaurant. After leaving Prasteio Mesorotsos, we drove to Nea Paphos, a World Heritage site. This summer is the 50th year of excavations at Nea Paphos (this is the Polish academy anniversary). The site spans from the Hellenistic to Roman and Early Christian then to the Frankish and Ottoman periods.
After being exhausted from those two site tours we decided to go to the rest of the sites the next day. First on the list for Monday was The Tomb of the Kings, a Hellenistic and Roman cemetery that contains monumental rock cut chamber tombs. The tombs are associated with Nea Paphos and are considered to be the necropolis for the city, not just kings. This was by far my favorite site visit; however, the next site on our list, Kourion, was a close second. I don’t usually work in Cyprus so I don’t have an immense knowledge of the archaeology done on the island, but I did know about Kourion. This site dates to multiple periods and contains structures such as a Theatre, Agora, a Hellenistic public structure, an Early Christian Basilica, House of the Gladiators, and House of Achilles. While these are all interesting buildings, what was most interesting to me was the Earthquake House. This was a private residence that was destroyed by an earthquake in ancient times, which provides insight into the everyday life of the city. Our last stop of the day was the Neolithic village of Choirokoitia. The majority of this site is stone and earthen circular houses that exist on a hillside. This two day weekend trip allowed me to learn a lot about the archaeology and history of Cyprus and to see a lot of cool things!
Tuesday was my last day here in Cyprus before I headed off to Greece. I spent my last day coding tomb 48 and trying to get as much of the analysis done as I could so there was less for Nick to do after I left.
Bioarchaeology Graduate Student