Digging Idalion

A press release from Cyprus’ Press and Information Office:

The Ministry of Communications and Works (Department of Antiquities) announces the completion of the twentieth excavation season of the Department of Antiquities’ systematic excavations at the site of ancient Idalion. Excavations at the site began in 1991 and continue until today under the direction of the Director of the Department of Antiquities Dr. Maria Hadjicosti who is assisted by Senior Technicians S. Lagos and K. Kapitanis. Five young archaeologists from Greek Universities and the University of Cyprus also took part in the excavation this year.

Throughout the twenty-year investigations a total area of two thousand square meters has been investigated on the foothills of Ampileri hill, which was the west acropolis of ancient Idalion.

In this area, a large-scale fortified building complex has been excavated, which could be interpreted as the Palace of ancient Idalion or its Administrative Center. This building complex contains a triple olive-press (unique in its kind throughout the eastern Mediterranean), roads that lead to the complexes’ courtyards from the external gate, towers and impressive storage buildings, houses and military installations.

The Idalion fort is considered to be the largest palace or administrative center identified so far in Cyprus. It is strictly defensive in character with interior towers that control the interior streets and the large rectangular courtyards. Wings with two-storey rooms surrounded the courtyards. The ground floor rooms had storage areas were large storage vessels (pithoi) were kept for the storage of wine and olive oil, the area’s main products. Inscriptions that record tax collecting in kind from the ancient city’s inhabitants have been found in many of these storage rooms.

The abovementioned inscriptions (more than three hundred have so far been found) are part of the Phoenician Archive and indicate the methods used for the collection of taxes by the Phoenicians, who governed the ancient city of Idalion for 150 years, from the middle of the 5th century until the end of the 4th century B.C. The inscriptions are written in ink on marble slabs and pottery sherds.

During this year’s excavations, the investigations extended higher up the hill, where two new building complexes were discovered. These complexes are attached to the eastern and western side of a large interior tower. The complex situated to the east of the tower constitutes the south wing of the storage rooms’ large courtyard. The rooms’ walls survive to a maximum height of three meters. Inside the rooms, pithoi were found as well as other large vessels, inscriptions and pieces of a bronze shield along with other metal weapons that had fallen from the second floor when it collapsed. The second building complex was found to the west of the large tower and it is also comprised of six rooms which are linked up to each other and that also communicate with the two large roads to the north and the west. The complex may have been used by the soldiers who guarded the tower.

With the completion of this year’s investigations, the archaeological site has extended to such an extent that it is now ready to be open to the public. The necessary plans are being prepared in cooperation with the Municipality of Idalion. The archaeological site will thus be joined with the Local Museum of ancient Idalion, which opened to the public in 2008. The footpath that links the museum to the site as well as the parking space near the museum have both been completed. All the above works were realized in close cooperation with the Municipality of Idalion, which has performed exemplary work as far as the promotion of the area’s cultural heritage is concerned.

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