The sites of the Swedish Cyprus Expedition

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The Swedish Cyprus Expedition 1927–1931

The Swedish Cyprus Expedition investigated 21 sites during four years on Cyprus from 1927–1931 and Gjerstad himself 4 in 1923 and 1924. The sites are spread all over the island. The archaeological remains cover the entire period from Neolithic to Roman times and consist of tombs, sanctuaries, settlements, fortresses and a palace. Today, with Cyprus divided, many of the sites in the North have been inaccessible for years. Some of the sites have even been reported destroyed and the findings in the local museums dispersed. This makes the SCE finds more important than ever as study material. The following summary of the sites is based primarily on the publication: The Swedish Cyprus Expedition, Vols. I–IV:3 (E. Gjerstad et al.), Stockholm and Lund 1934–1972 (SCE).



Alambra is a village in the Nicosia district. South-west of the village on a hillside is a necropolis with tombs from the Early and Middle Cypriote periods. Some of the tombs were opened by Ohnefalsch-Richter in 1883 and 1885. Higher up on the hillside is a settlement, and here Gjerstad in 1924 made soundings, finding levels from Early Cypriote II–III. On the other side of the hill was another settlement where he excavated a house from Early Cypriote III (2000–1900 B.C.).

The house had two rooms and an open court enclosing it. It had two habitation periods with a destruction level between them. In one of the rooms a storage bench and grinding place were found as well as loom weights, confirming that this was a working room. East of the house a bake oven was found.



In the Famagusta district west of the village of Kalopsidha is a site called Taoudi Chiftlik. Here Gjerstad found an Early Cypriote III to Middle Cypriote III (2000–1600 B.C.) settle-ment and excavated a small part of it in 1924. He found a house which was part of a more organised urban system. The house had 11 rooms and a court west and north of it. On the strength of the finds the various rooms can be interpreted as reception room with cultic activity, three store rooms and working rooms, sleeping rooms and outhouses. The positions of the finds show in some instances that they were originally placed on shelves which had since collapsed. The house had two habitation periods. Some of the pottery is clearly imported from Syria and Gjerstad surmised that this had been a merchant’s house.



Nikolidhes is situated 3 km north of Idalion. A river runs through a cleft between two hills. On the slopes of the western hill Ohnefalsch-Richter opened some Late Cypriote tombs in 1894. To the west lies an Early Cypriote settlement. On the eastern hill Gjerstad in 1924 excavated a small fortress. He thought the place to be a military station rather than a village. The fortress had two building periods, both related to Late Cypriote I (1600–1450 B.C.). The first period ended in violent destruction, but the second period showed no such signs and probably the site was gradually abandoned.




In the Famagusta district is a site close to the village of Phrenaros where Gjerstad conducted a small excavation in 1923. The site, called Vounistiri, was a limestone plateau with a rather thin layer of topsoil. He found a house floor but no traces of foundations, which indicates that the house had walls of destroyable material. It was roughly 10 x 8 m though irregular in shape. Outside the house a cooking place was found. The finds from the house include a number of flint implements and very few potsherds. The flint indicates a dating late in the Neolithic period (c. 4000 B.C.).



The ancient site of Amathus is on the south coast of Cyprus, about 11 km east of Limassol. The ruins cover a large area on top of a hill and on the slopes towards the sea. The lower city lies between the acropolis and the sea and to the east. Remains of the city wall and the ancient harbour can still be seen.  Practically nothing of the city has been excavated so far.

Amathus was one of the ancient kingdoms of Cyprus. Its legendary founder was Kinyras, who called the city after his mother Amathous. Not much is known of the earliest history of the city. Finds attest to a rather long period of existence from Cypro-Geometric I until Early Byzantine time, when it was gradually abandoned after the first Arab raids of A.D. 647.

The site was visited by both archaeologists and amateurs during the 18th and 19th centuries. Luigi Palma di Cesnola, the first American consul in Cyprus, excavated part of the necropolis with large built tombs situated north of the acropolis and tombs in the necropolis west of the acropolis hill. He wrote what Westholm mentions as a romantic excavation report in his book – Cyprus, its cities, tombs, and temples,  London 1877 – which should not be taken too seriously. The Prussian classical scholar Max Ohnefalsch-Richter carried out excavations in 1885 and mentioned two sanctuaries in the old town and published plan and sections of a tomb.

In April-May 1930 SCE examined a necropolis situated on both sides of the acropolis on the low hill slopes only a short distance from the shore. This necropolis had partly been excavated by the English Expedition to Cyprus in 1893-94 and published in Excavations in Cyprus, London 1900, p. 89. They found two sites, A – 800 m west of the acropolis on both sides of the main road from Nicosia to Limassol – and B – nearer the acropolis 100 m west of a small river. Between these two sites was an area where the treasure-seeking villagers had dug some holes and thus managed to empty two tombs of their contents. Here the SCE excavated 25 tombs on either side of the road and west of site A they found another tomb, no. 26.

Most of the tombs had rock-cut or built shafts and a corridor, dromos, leading to the bottom of the shaft. These were the earliest. The later tombs were built with a dromos and one or more burial chambers. Two of the tombs were of very good construction and quality, marking them out as being for rich or even royal subjects. The corpses were normally placed on a ledge of pebbles, on their backs with their heads towards the entrance. The burial gifts were placed next to them. The tombs were re-used several times, in which case the burial gifts were pushed into the corner of the tomb. Tomb no. 26 had a large tumulus above what turned out to be a simple shaft grave. It contained, however, a stone pithos with an alabastron in which a burnt skeleton was found. Around the rim of the alabastron was placed a wreath of gilded myrtle leaves. The excavator thought it might have been a Ptolemaic official who died in Amathus and was buried according to a foreign burial custom. The 26 tombs are dated from the Cypro-Geometric I to the Roman period (1050 B.C–c.150 A.D.).


Ayia Irini

Ayia Irini is a small village near the north-west coast of Cyprus situated on a rock plateau. This rock plateau has only a thin layer of overburden, and the area seems barren and sterile. On the other side of the valley is a necropolis with rock-cut tombs dating from the Late Bronze Age to the Roman period, and ruins of a small ancient town can be seen further down towards the sea. The earliest finds seen here are from the Hellenistic period.

In November 1929 a priest by the name of Papa Prokopios came to the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia and gave them a present. It was the upper part of a terracotta statue from the 6th century B.C. He had found it on his own field in the village, a place which was to the west not far from the village church. SCE made a preliminary examination of the find spot and found one of the most important sanctuaries, which turned out to be almost intact. They soon obtained permission to excavate and began the very same month.

The sanctuary of Ayia Irini was constructed at the end of the Late Cypriote III period and was in use until c. 480 B.C. A revival can be detected in the first century B.C. The culture layers represent 7 periods of use with period 4–6 as the most important (c. 700–500 B.C.).

During period 1 (c.1200–1050 B.C.) the sanctuary consisted of a complex of rectangular buildings arranged along the sides of a large open court measuring approx. 30 x 20 m. The houses served as living quarters for the priest, store rooms and cult purposes. In the central house the cult requisites were found, consisting of offering tables, large pithoi, jugs, bowls, a stone cult axe, pestles and grinders, spindle whorls of stone, a bronze arrowhead and a terracotta bull. No cult object was found, but a strong possibility exists that the oval stone which was the cult object in the later temenos, originated from the first period of existence of the sanctuary and was thus transferred to later periods. The cult was very clearly agrarian with worship of deities protecting the crops and cattle.

In period 2 (9th century B.C.) a typical rural sanctuary was built, open to the sky. It had an open temenos of oval shape surrounded by a peribolos, a boundary wall. A low altar built of rubble was constructed and close by a libation table. The votive gifts consisted almost exclusively of terracotta bulls from this period. In period 3 (8th century B.C.) the peribolos wall was heightened, the floor level raised and a rectangular pillar altar replaced the old one. In this period the votive figurines consisted of three classes: animal figurines, minotaur figurines and human statues and statuettes. Both the minotaurs and the human statues are represented as adorants.

Early in period 4 (c. 700–600 B.C.) the temenos was widened and a new peribolos wall erected. Two small rectangular rooms were built and organic earth from these enclosures are interpreted as remains of sacred trees. From this period there are dedications of votive terracottas on a massive scale. The temenos was inundated by a flood at the end of the period, as also happened in periods 5–6. After the last flood the place was abandoned until the 1st century B.C. when the sanctuary had a short revival period.

The identity of the deity wor-shiped in Ayia Irini is not recorded epigraphically, so the nature can only be deduced from the dedications. Totally more than 2,000 terracotta sculptures have been found, half of which are now in Medelhavsmuseet, the other half in the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia. The bull statuettes, the armed statues and the chariots indicate a god of war as well as of fertility and cattle. The god was believed to reside in the cult stone around which the votives were arranged in concentric semicircles. Of the cult practice very little is known, but from terracotta figurines wearing bull masks one might speculate whether the worshippers wore masks during ritual perform-ances. The human figures are of different sizes and some might represent the worshippers.


Ayios Iakovos

The village of Ayios Iakovos is situated about 22.5 km north of Famagusta. In 1923 Gjerstad visited the place and in his thesis Studies on Prehistoric Cyprus he mentions a tomb field 1.5 km east of the village in a locality called Melia. He collected some potsherds on the ground, because several of the tombs had been opened and sacked during clandestine “excavations”. The site had, however, never been investigated properly.

In June 1929 the SCE began their operations in the necropolis of Melia and found two tombs entirely robbed by illicit diggings, but opened 14 new ones. The tombs were rock-cut in the sandy limestone with a stepped  corridor-shaped dromos and a flat, vaulted chamber of more or less irregular space. Two of the tombs have two chambers. The skeletons were placed on their backs either squatting or outstretched and the burial gifts were placed all around them. Several of the tombs had more than one burial group. They are dated from Middle Cypriote III to Late Cypriote II (1725–1200 B.C.).

While excavating the necropolis the team searched for the settlement to which the tombs had once belonged. A villager drew their attention to a field not far from the northern outskirts of the village of Ayios Iakovos. Here his plough had turned up a lot of broken pottery which belonged to the same period as the latest burials of Melia. SCE dug a trial trench first, and then in August 1929 they carried out a proper excavation, but instead of a Bronze Age settlement they found a sanctuary. This was in a rather poor state. The sacred area had probably been fenced in but no traces were found of the enclosure, which means it must have been of a perishable material. The sanctuary was divided into two parts by a wall which had a door. The main entrance was prob-ably from the north west where the worshipper first entered an exterior court with a large terracotta basin. Most of the votive gifts were found in and around this basin. Behind the wall was the interior court with two round stone podia which were altars. In this part of the sanctuary not one single votive gift was found. The sanctuary was in use in Middle Cypriote III and Late Cypriote II with an apparent gap in Late Cypriote I (1725–1600 B.C. and 1450–1200 B.C.).

Some 100 m north of the first sanctuary another hill was investigated. The surface indicated a cult place of the Iron Age and they found the foundations of a rectangular building 6.95 x 10.75 facing north and south. It was constructed of rubble of limestone bound with lime cement. Three building periods have been found and in the second period the house had a transverse wall and an altar. Probably both rooms had a roof, and the character of the building is that of a house chapel. Several terracotta statuettes and pottery were found in the building and in the pits, 8 in total, surrounding the house. The pits probably served originally as places for keeping the grain fresh and were at the same time put under the protection of the local deity. In the walls some jars were imbedded which can be considered as wall offerings. The sanctuary was clearly in use from the Late Cypriote I, as some layers contain only Bronze Age material, but the later periods of the building belong to the Iron Age, with finds as late as Cypro-Classical II or even Hellenistic times (1600–c. 310 B.C.).



The necropolis of Enkomi was already found and investigated in 1896 by Murray, Smith and Christian. The extraordinarily rich graves led to a lot of clandestine excavations and hundreds of tombs were plundered. The site is situated east of the village of Enkomi in a place where the plateau only have a very thin overburden. The necropolis was once surrounded by a wall. SCE investigated here in June 1930–July 1930. They started with a number of trial trenches but not very successful at first as Byzantine houses had destroyed many of the graves. Eventually they touched upon part of the necropolis which never had been investigated and found very rich and important graves. A total of 22 graves was uncovered. They were rock-cut tombs, sometimes covered by a mound of earth, though some of the later were more modest with shaft tombs dug in the earth. The skeletons were placed outstretched on their backs. Several of the graves had a large proportion of imported grave goods, especially Mycenaean pottery from the Greek mainland. The majority of the tombs are from Late Cypriote II (1450–1200 B.C.).



The ancient city of Idalion, once the capital of one of the kingdoms in Cyprus, was situated in the centre of the island on the river Yalias. The ruins of the ancient city extend to the south of the modern village called Dali. It consisted of three parts: the two hilltop acropolises and the lower town.  The necropolis with tombs from Late Bronze Age until the Roman period extends to the east and west.

The top of the eastern acropolis was occupied by a sanctuary of Aphrodite, excavated by Max Ohnefalsch-Richter, and in the valley below was a sanctuary of Resheph-Apollo, excavated by Lang. Many of the tombs were excavated by the labourers of Luigi Palma de Cesnola and Ohnefalsch-Richter without reports being published. The lower town is presumed to contain the public agora and private houses but remains unexcavated.

In the summer of 1928 The SCE began excavating the top plateau of the western acropolis. This place had not been touched before, except by treasure-hunting peasants. The excavations showed that the acropolis was a fortified stronghold with a cult place from the end of the Bronze Age. This was later to be a sanctuary of Athena, whom the Phoenicians identified with their own Anat. Below this acropolis the SCE dug some trial trenches which showed that here was the Royal palace. They had hoped to be able to excavate this at a later date, but never managed to return to the site.

The habitation on the acropolis began in Late Cypriote IIIA (c.1200 B.C.). The fortified acropolis had a massive rampart built of mud brick on stone foundation. There were three gates: the North gate, the West gate and the West side gate. The rampart was reconstructed in Late Cypriote IIIB and again repaired in IIIC. At that time the North Gate was narrowed and strengthened by two flanking bastions and a subterranean passage was cut through the rock below the gate. The houses were rather primitive, with mud-brick walls on rubble foundations. The buildings did not form a uniform complex but a number of separate blocks of rooms with a cult house in the centre surrounded by storehouses and a house for the priest and chief of the city. The cult room had a small, square altar and jugs for libations and votive terracottas of bulls were deposited here.

In Cypro-Geometric I–II (1050–900 B.C.) the cult place was changed into a rather rustic and primitive type and not until Cypro-Geometric III (900–750 B.C.) remains of architecture can be identified with certainty. Now the acropolis was enclosed by a fortification wall with two turrets in the west corner and an entrance gate in the south west wall. This defensive wall also served as temenos wall. Within it was the sanctuary consisting of an altar court with a square stone altar and a cult chapel adjoining the court.

In the Cypro-Archaic period the temenos was enlarged and the acropolis wall strengthened by a massive tower at the west corner. Inside the entrance gate was erected a long, rectangular hall; a square altar was built at the right end of the open front of the cult chapel. The inner temenos, or inner court, had a wall with the main entrance to the south west side. The court was open to the sky but was roofed with tiles along the sides.

The votive gifts of these various periods consist mainly of weapons and tools of various kinds and specimens of personal accessories. Many of the objects were hung on the wall. The cult object was not found. The deity worshipped here was a goddess whom the Greeks called Athena. This can be deduced from a bronze tablet with inscriptions, and from other inscriptions. This Goddess the Phoenicians called Anat and an inscription found built into the foundation of the chapel of Aj. Georgios close by the north east city wall mentions her. What she was called by the Cypriotes we do not know but the votives indicate that she was a war goddess, like Athena.

In the necropolis outside the city wall the SCE opened two tombs, but only in order to prevent them from being plundered. Tomb 1 was Hellenistic and Tomb 2 from the Hellenistic period but with a much later burial, that is from the 4th century A.D. They also investigated the necropolis inside the later city wall but most of the tombs had already been opened by Ohnefalsch-Richter and they only came upon one intact tomb from Cypro-Geometric I (1050–950 B.C.).



The ruins of Kition, the ancient capital of the Phoenician colony in Cyprus, are within the boundaries of the modern town of Larnaca on the south coast of the island. The ancient city was surrounded by city walls which are still visible.

The acropolis was situated in the north eastern part of the city in a place called Bamboula. Between the acropolis and the present sea-shore was the ancient harbour, which had gradually silted up, forming a marshland. In order to get rid of the malarial mosquitoes the Cyprus Government decided in 1879 to fill in the marsh, using accumulated debris from the acropolis. In this way the top layers of the site were much disturbed. A vast necropolis extends north, west and south of the city with tombs dating from Early Cypriote to Cypro-Roman times. A minor part of the ancient city was excavated as early as 1894 and systematic excavations have now been going on since 1959.

The city was founded in the Late Cypriote period by the Mycenaeans from the Peloponnese. The Phoenicians arrived at Kition at the end of the 9th century B.C., first as traders and later as settlers. From the archaeological finds, however, it is clear that the population must have remained essentially Greek. Later the Phoenicians, aided by the Persians, established a dynasty which ruled the city in the 5th and 4th century B.C. The last king of Kition, Pumiathon, sided with Antigonus in the struggle between him and Ptolemy I Soter. He lost his life and throne and Kition ceased to be an independent state after Ptolemy’s’ conquest of Kition in 312.

In 1914 Myres undertook soundings on the mound of Bamboula but he did not publish them. SCE began in October 1929 and continued until April 1930 with an interruption during the winter season. They wanted to do a stratigraphic examination of the Bamboula mound in order to be able to date the Phoenician colonisation of Cyprus and investigate the role of the Phoenicians in the development of the Cypriote culture. However, after three days of digging they found a large deposit of sculptures and had to include a larger area for examination.

In Late Cypriote III and the beginning of Cypro-Geometric I (c. 1100–1000 B.C.) the acropolis of Kition began to be used as an open-air sanctuary. Until the Cypro-Archaic period it consisted of a temenos, a sacred enclosure, with open votive and altar courts, and a roofed-in chapel placed in a corner of the votive court. The temenos was restored or replaced several times, each time raising the level. In the Cypro-Classical I (480–400 B.C.) period a new temenos was constructed now on a larger scale and of more monumental design with a solid wall of ashlar blocks. Within the inner temenos was a low altar and outside a rectangular pillar altar. All through the periods votive gifts, mainly consisting of sculpture, were placed in the sanctuary and each time the level was raised the sculptures were transferred to the new sanctuary. In the beginning of the Hellenistic period the temenos was demolished and at the same time a large part of the votive gifts were buried in a rectangular pit, which was filled in and marked by a platform of limestone slabs.

The votive gifts have yielded no inscriptions indicating to which God the sanctuary was dedicated. However, several of the sculptures represent a god with a lion’s skin placed over his head and with a club in his right, raised hand. This is the Cypriote version of the Greek hero/god Herakles. The Phoenicians identified him with their god Melkart, who was the city god of Kition. At the same time the temple of Melkart, which had been the religious sign of Kiton’s political independence, was destroyed.



East of the fortress of Nitovikla is the hilly forest land of Kountoura Trachonia. Here the SCE first saw some cave tombs cut in the steep rock wall overlooking the lower part of the burial ground. In the forest below they found many traces of clandestine diggings; more than a dozen tombs had been opened and emptied. Eight of these had had mounds of earth lined by upright stone slabs. Unfortunately all these tumuli-covered tombs had been looted, though according to the reports of the peasants in the neighbouring village none of the looted tombs had been very rich.

In 1929 SCE excavated 14 intact tombs and one looted. They were all of the dromos type, cut into the rock. Several of the tombs had repeated burials with the skeleton placed in outstretched position and the burial gifts nearby. The tombs can be dated from finds of coins, although only four of them contained coins. The coins span over most of the 3rd century B.C. and the tombs are thus ascribed to the 2/2 half of the 3rd century B.C.



During the winter of 1930 finds of stone and flint implements from the village of Kythrea were reported to the SCE. The site is north-east of Nicosia, 200 m south of Kephalovryso, on a slope much furrowed by the streams and winter rains and on the eastern bank of a small river. The excavation started in the spring of 1930.

The Chalcolithic settlement covered an area of about 10,000 m2, but a great part of it had been washed away. 5 circular huts were excavated built of small or large rubble.  In four of the five a base for a central support was found. The roof was probably of tree trunks standing on the circular wall meeting the central post and covered with sticks and twigs caulked with clay. The huts had been more or less cleared of their contents before being vacated, apart from hut IVB which had burnt. Here flint tools, grinders and mortars and a small jug were found. The dating of the huts is Chalcolithic II (3500–2500 B.C.).



The Neolithic/Chalcolithic settlement in Lapithos is situated in a locality called Alonia ton Plakon, west of the village. The place was much damaged by human and natural causes, so the extent of the settlement is unsure. Excavations took place at two different sites, the Eastern and the Western settlement. SCE worked here from October to the middle of November 1928.

The Eastern settlement is badly preserved due to winter floods, modern and in some instances also Roman and Byzantine cultivation. Only scanty remains were found of houses, that is the rather simple stone foundation walls, and nothing is known of the upper walls or roofing. Three bothroi were found cut in the rock and a hearth. Probably the site had four habitation periods.

The Western settlement contained the remains of four huts, one above the other. The walls here were of irregular stone blocks and the roof was clearly supported by wooden posts and made of straw bound together with clay. Three hearths were found. The finds were mainly of three classes: objects of flint, stone and pottery. The two sites are to be dated to the 4th millenium with the Eastern settlement being the earliest. In the rock upon which the settlement was placed tombs were cut and SCE excavated three of these stemming from the Cypro-Geometric period.

West of the village in a locality called Vrysi tou Barba along the shore was found another necropolis. The site is a flat plain sloping gently towards the sea which causes repeated flooding from the mountain streams. Myres excavated here in 1917 and M. Markides from the Cyprus Museum in 1917, though they did not publish their investigations. In two other localities – in the village near the church of Ajia Anastasia and along the road leading to Kafalovryso – tombs were also found; two of these had been previously excavated. SCE began the excavation at the end of September 1927. The purpose was to obtain a representative series of tombs from a limited area. Totally they found 23 tombs and as they state in the publication: “the necropolis was far from being exhausted, when we left”. The tombs were of the type with dromos and with one or several burial chambers. The skeletons were not very well preserved, but the burial gifts were numerous and in particular a large quantity of metal weapons and tools. The tombs are from Early Cypriote IIA to Late Cypriote III (2075–1050 B.C.).

Finally in a locality called Kastros below the plateau of Anastasia SCE excavated another necropolis from November 1927 until the end of April 1928, with an intermission during the winter season. This site had never been excavated before, only plundered in Byzantine times. 30 graves were excavated and the shape of the tombs differs according to the period. As seen in many other necropolises in Cyprus, the tombs were used for repeated but successive burials, indicating that they were family graves. The bodies were placed as a rule outstretched on their backs, either directly on the rock floor or on beds of clay or earth. The deceased were dressed in clothes fastened with pins and fibulae. Some of the graves were extremely rich in grave goods. The men had instruments for their daily life: knives, pikes, shepherd’s crooks; the women had spindle whorls and jewellery. In three of the graves evidence was found that human sacrifices had taken place, probably slaves killed at the funeral. The dating of this necropolis is mainly the Cypro-Geometric period (1050–750 B.C.).



On the north west coast of Cyprus near the sea lies the ruins of Marion. This was one of the ancient kingdoms of Cyprus and became very important due to its wealth from the nearby copper mines at Limne. After Alexander the Great, Stasioikos II, the last king of Marion sided with Antigonos against Ptolemy and in 312 B.C. the city was razed by Ptolemy and the inhabitants moved to Paphos. In about 270 B.C. a new town was founded on the ruins of Marion by Ptolemy Philadelphus who renamed it Arsinoë in honour of his wife and sister. The ruins cover a large area, part of which is now occupied by the village of Polis. The city was founded on two low plateaus, both commanding a wide view over the narrow plain below and the bay of Chrysochou beyond. This means that there was an eastern and a western city, the eastern being the earliest. A sanctuary site is known between the eastern and western cities. It was constructed in the Archaic period possibly to worship Zeus and Aphrodite as attested by an inscription. The vast necropolis extended east and west of the city and remains of the ancient harbour still survive nearby at Latsi.

SCE came here in March 1929 with the intention discovering the site of the ancient Marion, as at that time only the Hellenistic and later remains were apparent in the surface. They laid out trial trenches in both the eastern and western city, but could only register Late Archaic and Classical debris in the western part. Later soundings and surveys from the 1960 have, however, confirmed their hypothesis that the ancient Marion is underneath Arsinoë.

In the area of the necropolis a number of excavations had been undertaken before the SCE came. Ohnefalsch-Richter excavated a lot of tombs in 1885–1886. In 1889–1890 Munro and Tubbs opened a number of tombs for the Cyprus Exploration fund. Furthermore the necropolis had been investigated by M. Markides, ex-Keeper of the Cyprus Museum and Rupert Gunnis, inspector of Antiquities. All these excavations are only summarily described or unpublished. A number of tombs had also been opened by the villagers.

The SCE excavated a total of 98 tombs, fifty in the eastern necropolis on the sites of Sikarka-Kokkina, Potamos tou Myrmikof, and Evrethades and 48 in the western necropolis on the site of Kaparka. The tombs date from seven periods from the Cypro-Geometric I (1050–950 B.C.) to the Hellenistic I (310–150 B.C.). Those from the Cypro-Archaic and the Cypro-Classical periods outnumber the other periods, but this could be due to the fact that the main burial ground of the Cypro-Geometric period is elsewhere.

The shape of the tombs differs from one period to another, but most of them are of the dromos type. They were often used for repeated burials, showing that they are family tombs, but single burials exist, especially for children. The skeletons were placed outstretched on their backs, though in three cases the deceased was buried in sitting or half-sitting posture. In some of the tombs the bodies were buried in screened-off areas with partition walls of stone. The walls were sometimes built of dressed stones, thus forming a “pseudo-sarcophagus”. This is probably the first use of built stone sarcophagi in Marion. The dead had various burial gifts such as food and drink in vases of metal and terracotta, tools and weapons, personal accessories and sometimes exquisite specimens of jewellery. Sometimes coins had been given to the dead and in one case the coin was deposited in the mouth of the deceased in order to pay the fare on Charon’s ferry.

Afterwards funeral offerings were brought to the grave, as could be ascertained from the dromos filling. Some of the graves had a stele with the name of the deceased and his father erected in the chamber itself, in the dromos or on the surface above the tomb, where sculptures of stone or terracotta occasionally had been placed representing the deceased.



Mersinaki is near the shore, halfway between Vouni and Soloi on the North coast of Cyprus. It is a triangular plain on the banks of a small river and it was formed by being silted up with sand and gravel from this river. When SCE arrived here in summer 1930 the site was very attractive, with huge old olive trees and bushes of tamarisk and oleander. Visible on the ground were ancient potsherds and fragments of stone or terracotta. Remains of two buildings were found and eight pits.

The excavators found a large quantity of fragmentary sculptures of stone, mainly limestone, and terracotta apart from pottery, especially in the pits. The remains have been interpreted as part of a sacred precinct. Two of the inscriptions found showed the place was sacred to Apollo, and possibly even to Apollon Lykios. Athena’s name is also present on a stone, and a chariot group is furthermore an indication that she was worshipped here maybe at a later date. The dating of the sanctuary is only possible via stylistic comparisons with the sculptures from Vouni. The place was in use from late in the Cypro-Archaic period until the 1st century B.C. In Roman times a house was built and many of the sculpture fragments from the previous periods were then buried in the large pits. When the house was destroyed the site was abandoned for good.



In 1928 some illicit diggings near the village of Millia were reported to the Cyprus Museum by the police. Some of the diggers were caught and a few vases brought to the Museum. As some of the pots were foreign SCE became interested and asked for and obtained a licence to carry out an investigation of the site, which took place in February 1928. Millia is 18 km north west of Famagusta. All around the village tombs were cut in the rock and a brief examination of the part south of the village showed that many of the tombs here had been plundered. They excavated a number of tombs but found only four of them worth publishing.

The tombs were all of the normal type with a dromos and a burial chamber. One of them was empty but the others had a lot of burial gifts, quite a few of the vases having been imported either from Syria or Greece. A certain reuse of the tombs could be shown from the findings. They can be dated to the Late Cypriote I–II (1600–1200 B.C.).



Neta is on the Carpass peninsula in the north of Cyprus. Nothing is published from this site, but here in 1928 SCE excavated a Bronze Age necropolis with tombs cut in the rock.



East of the small river running beside the temple site of Oura is a site known as Nitovikla. It is a low hill on the western border of the area overlooking the plateau. Some very large stones had always been visible in the area and the place had a fortified character.

The SCE came here in 1928 and noticed a small burial ground. They cut a negative trial trench at the temple site of Oura and investigated the tomb fields of Paleoskoutella and Kountoura Trachonia. In the autumn of 1929 they set out for the tombs of Nitovikla and then the Fortress.

The Fortress is in the south-west corner of an extensively fortified plateau, with a strong north wall leaving only a narrow passage up to the plateau. Only one gate leads into the place, either via the passage or by means of a rock-cut passage on the west side. A well was found in the western part and on the ground inside the walls potsherds, hand querns and stone pithoi. The walls were partly of the cyclopean type for the fortress, partly smaller for habitation areas. The fortress can be reconstructed as a square building with towers in three of the corners and around the entrance. Along the north side were three large rooms with a sun shelter along the facade which have been interpreted as casemates. Some of the rooms were evidently used for storage and one most certainly a kitchen area. The place was, however, not permanently inhabited and most likely served as a fortified refuge for the surrounding population. Several periods could be seen from the potsherds and they are from the Middle Cypriote III to Late Cypriote I (1725–1450 B.C.).

A small necropolis was connected with the habitation of Nitovikla and situated at the east end of the area. Twelve tombs were found opened and robbed in modern times. Only three intact tombs were found, all from the Middle Cypriote III period (1725–1600 B.C.).



The sanctuary of Oura is situated on the eastern coast of Cyprus in the Karpassos peninsular. The SCE excavated it in April 1928 but it was not published in the SCE publications. This was due to the fact that they found a large number of fragments of limestone sculpture which were all very badly damaged and disintegrated, and so as the volume of the scientific publication had to be limited they omitted it. Medelhavsmuseet has a seated limestone statue from this site which might represent a priest or secular potentate and has been dated to c. 500 B.C.



North of the Nitovikla fortress is the necropolis of Paleoskoutella on a hill close to the road. A large tumulus dominated the necropolis and was surrounded by smaller ones. Probably the necropolis had contained about 20 tombs, but some had almost vanished.

SCE came here in the autumn of 1929 and excavated seven of the tumuli. These consisted of stone and earth piled up. Tumulus 1, 3  and 6 had not tomb chambers and served probably as cult places. They had, however, been totally emptied and covered with thick layers of white clay earth. Tomb 2 and 5 had been emptied of their burials and tomb 7 with 14 skeletons gave the impression of having had burials brought from other tombs. Probably  the people who used it were to leave the area and before that they made their burial ground safe from violation by foreigners. The tombs date from Middle Cypriote III (1725–1600 B.C.). The type with a tumulus and a hilltop position is actually rather unusual for Bronze Age necropolises in Cyprus.


Petra tou Limniti

When the SCE excavated the palace of Vouni the members took a swimming tour to a small rocky island called Petra tou Limniti which lies about 80 m from the shore. Here they discovered the remains of some huts from the Neolithic period and it was the first time that the Neolithic period had been attested in Cyprus. During two summer weeks in 1929 SCE excavated the site. The island is only 150 m in length and 105 m wide, with very steep north and west sides. The top of the island is only accessible from the east. Here is a small plateau with a rough surface apart from the centre, and it was here that the remains were found of two rather primitive huts with several phases, Petra I–IV. In phase Petra III the hut is clearly divided into a living room and a kitchen with a hearth placed against the wall of the room. The finds were objects of flint, stone and bone, mainly working tools, bowls and idols. The dating of the finds is to the pre-pottery Neolithic IA–B (c.8200–5900/5600 B.C.).



Soloi lies on one of the small hills in the region where the plain of Mesaorea is transformed into low hills before the high mountains of western Cyprus. The town was very well-situated. To the north was the sea and a good harbour which could also be used during wintertime. To the east is the large cultivated plain, to the south, extending almost up to the town, is the island’s richest copper district, and two river valleys provided secure communications with rich cultivated sites in the mountains. The ruins of ancient Soloi are easily detectable on the ground and the town is further defined by the city wall which is traceable in many places.

Around the whole town the tombs are spread over an enormous area. Over a thousand of them have been opened by modern tomb robbers who in many cases spoiled the pottery contents and the interior of the tombs. The sherds from the robbed tombs make it possible to date them and most of them are from the Cypro-Archaic II period to the Cypro-Roman. SCE, however, realising that very few tombs remained untouched, did not excavate any in Soloi.

Owing to the existence of copper mines the area was inhabited in the Bronze Age. The city site, however, was not occupied before Cypro-Geometric times. Soloi is one of the ancient kingdoms in Cyprus and according to tradition was founded by Akamas and Phaleros. Another version mentions a city called Aipeia, supposedly the predecessor of Soli, founded by Demophon, brother of Akamas. The name is connected with a visit to Cyprus by the Athenian lawgiver Solon, who advised Philo-kypros of Aipeia to remove the city from its rocky country to the plain by the sea. The king took his advice and named the new city after Solon. The city flourished until Early Byzantine times, when it was gradually abandoned.

SCE started in October 1927 with the priority to find the temple of Aphrodite and Isis which the ancient author Strabo had mentioned. They dug a number of trial trenches but found nothing which could be identified as the aforementioned temple. They undertook, however, first to excavate the ancient theatre. This lies on the north slope of the lower hill. It consists of the cavea which had been cut in the rock, a semicircular orchestra with a rectangular stage building added. The theatre could hold about 3,500 spectators. The form, decoration and structural proportions reveal its Roman date. But so do the finds, especially the coins from the filling, which are dated to the 1st century A.D., more precisely to 66–70 A.D. Other coins attest to the life of the theatre, which probably went out of use in the 4th century A.D. The theatre is today reconstructed to its diazoma.

In other areas of the city trial trenches showed that a temenos with a very badly preserved temple existed and north of the temenos gate another large trench was opened. Numerous rectilinear walls were found which the excavator presumed to be  part of a royal palace complex like the one in Vouni and probably dating from the same period. This site, however, was never extensively investigated.

To the east of the city is another hill site called Cholades. SCE started here in 1930 with some trial trenches, as finds of stone sculpture had been reported. They found the foundations of two rooms but realised also that an entire excavation of the whole site would be beyond the economic resources of the Expedition as it was coming to its end. However, with the assistance of Crown Prince Gustav Adolf, who visited Cyprus in October 1930, an agreement was drawn up with the Cypriote authorities, whereby the expenses of the excavation were shared between the Expedition and the Cyprus Museum. They thus began excavating in November 1930 and continued till the end of February 1931.

They found a number of temples numbered A – F altered several times during 4 periods. The finds of sculpture, both marble and limestone, are particularly rich from the temples. SCE inferred from the finds that Temples A and B were conjointly dedicated to Aphrodite and Cybele. One or possibly both of Temples C and D were sacred to Isis and Temple E to Serapis, Canopus and Eros in mourning. Temple F was probably dedicated to Mithras. The temples date from Cypro-Hellenistic and Roman times. Today there is nothing visible at the site as it has since been filled up.



The village of Stylli lies 7 miles north-west of Famagusta on the Mesaorea plain. East of the village along the road for Enkomi is a tomb field which the SCE began investigating in the autumn of 1930. The place had been excavated in 1928 by Rupert Gunnis, later to become Inspector of Antiquities in Cyprus. The site is on a low, flat terrace which slopes towards the south. SCE with Sjöqvist in charge began on the upper part of the plateau and thereafter dug some trial trenches in the southern slope. The then Crown Prince of Sweden, Gustav Adolf, took part in the excavation.

Totally 17 tombs were excavated. All of them were of the usual type, comprising a grave chamber with a dromos of varying length. The irregular shape of the grave chamber was a typical feature. The bodies were placed in an outstretched dorsal position surrounded by the grave gifts, and the usual pattern of re-use of the tombs is also found in Stylli. The datings of the graves range from Cypro-Geometric IIIA to Cypro-Archaic IIA, 900 – c. 500 B.C.



Walking along the shore eastwards from Kountoura Trachonia, a site can be reached called Trachonas. Here can be found an ancient burial site with tombs from Cypro-Geometric II down to the Hellenistic period. Most of these have been plundered and one of them especially was said to have been very rich. SCE decided to inspect this one in April 1928. The tomb was built of large blocks. It had a long dromos and a grave chamber with false barrel vaulting. Over the entrance of the tomb chamber was most surprisingly found a relief with two figures engaged in dancing, probably death demons. The tomb was empty and could only be dated by comparison with other tombs. It seems most likely to date from the middle of the Cypro-Archaic I period, c. 700–650 B.C. Some sherds, however, found in the dromos filling suggest a later burial from the late Hellenistic period.



On the north-west coast of Cyprus lies the ancient site of Vouni. Several travellers visited the place, though the ruins were hardly recognisable on the ground. The ancient name of the site is not known and an earlier theory, that this should be Aipeia, the predecessor of Soloi, was dismissed by the SCE as the site revealed no earlier finds than from the 5th century B.C. The excavations at Vouni lasted from spring 1928 until autumn 1929. Occasional supplementary digs were carried out later. The name of Vouni belongs to a rocky hill rising directly from the sea north west of ancient Soloi. The hill is only 268 m high but stands out in the landscape. The site is very well situated with good communications with the interior. The hill was protected by defensive walls with several towers. Within this area the top to the south was reserved for the temple of Athena. On a large terrace below this the palace was situated, surrounded by various minor sanctuaries or chapels. A necropolis with rock-cut tombs stretched like a narrow band across the slope from the western to the eastern defensive wall below the palace. Further south, but still within the defensive wall, house remains were found. Communication within the area, especially north-south, was made possible by stairs, often cut into the rock. The site was most likely a fortified royal summer residence, possibly connected to the city of Soloi.

The palace belongs to the period between 500 and 380 B.C. with two building periods, c. 500 to c. 450 and from 450 to c. 380 B.C. The first palace consisted of a number of rooms grouped round a central open court and of the state apartments. During this period the entrance to the palace was to the south-west and led to the state apartments. This was a complex of three rooms, the central one of which consisted of an outer entrance hall and an inner hall opening onto the court. From here a grand staircase with seven steps led to the courtyard. This staircase occupied the whole width of the court. On the other sides of the court were peristyles. In the middle of the court was a basin-cistern. The bathrooms were to the north-east, the kitchen quarters to the south-east. To the north-west were some living rooms and store-rooms.

The second building period was an expanded version of the first with an important change in the orientation of the palace. The entrance was now from the north-west side through a vestibule. At the same time an upper storey was built. To the south-east and north-east a series of store-rooms were constructed. A series of shrines surrounded the palace. Some of them had altars and open courts. In 380 B.C. the palace was destroyed, probably as a result of a conflict. Apparently the inhabitants had to leave the palace in a hurry and someone deposited a treasure in a vase hidden under a staircase. The Vouni treasure contained jewellery of gold and silver, silver bowls and coins.

The Temple of Athena on the top of the Vouni hill must have been visible from afar. The sanctuary comprised a group of structures consisting of a cella fronting a large court and a second smaller forecourt entered from an open space with a block of three continuous treasuries along its south side. This sanctuary belongs to the first phase of the second building period of the palace. The square cella was a later addition, but here important finds were made of a solid bronze cow and two identical relief groups with lions attacking a bull. The inner temple court is rectangular and may have been used for setting up sculptures. In the forecourt was an altar and here too sculptures were put up.