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Archaeologists from Kraków and Warsaw join forces to explore ancient Nea Paphos

Archaeologists from Kraków and Warsaw join forces to explore ancient Nea Paphos

The Polish excavations in Nea Paphos – an archaeological site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List – initiated by the eminent authority on Mediterranean archaeology Kazimierz Michałowski - have been carried out for more than 50 years. So far, the research teams from the Jagiellonian University and the University of Warsaw have worked separately. This is going to change soon as the universities have established a consortium, providing the framework for joint research activities. It is hoped that the project will be funded by the National Science Centre.

“The new research project will be still focused on exploring the ancient agora and its surroundings, as well as the so-called Malutena, where the Warsaw team conducted their excavations. We are planning to reconstruct the urban landscape of the ancient Nea Paphos, and determine the role played in it by Malutena’s residential buildings and structures that were part of the Agora public space”, explains Prof. Ewdoksia Papuci-Władyka from the Jagiellonian University Institute of Archaeology, the head of the Kraków expedition to Paphos - “Paphos Agora Project”.

Nea Paphos is one of the most important archaeological sites on Cyprus. Founded in the western part of the island in the late 4th or early 3rd century BC, it belonged to the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt in the Hellenistic Era and later passed to Roman rule. From about 200 BC to about 350 AD the city was the capital of the island. Inscribing the site on the UNESCO World Heritage List resulted in the establishment of an archaeological park, covering an area of about 75 hectares, protected from modern architecture.

The research conducted by the Jagiellonian University archaeologists has so far been very fruitful. Their findings revealed that its agora – the central marketplace and assembly area - was founded in the Hellenistic era, i.e., 200 years earlier than it had previously been thought. The researchers from Kraków discovered remains of many large public buildings from that period. They also focused their efforts on verifying the hypothesis of the existence of a second port next to the north-western city gate. The analysis of the found artefacts has made a significant contribution to research in the field, changing some of the pre-existing views and paradigms, and shedding new light on the role of the capital of Cyprus in the Hellenistic and Roman period, both on the island itself and in the entire East Mediterranean region.

The archaeologists explored the entire Agora and the surrounding areas using non-invasive methods, which led to sensational findings. It turned out that the area had been surrounded by double porticos and that the Nea Paphos Agora had been much larger than previously thought, covering an area of about 2.5 hectares. Each of its sides was about 160 metres long, which makes it one of the largest agoras in this part of the Mediterranean basin.

The researchers also took a closer look on the Agora’s neighbouring areas. In 2019 they succeeded in mapping the network of streets surrounding the agora. For research purposes, those located on the east-west axis have been labelled with letters, whereas those on the north-south axis – with numbers. The large street “P” turned out to be especially interesting, paved with large stone blocks, underneath which there were sewers carrying sewage to large collector canals.

Prof. Papuci-Władyka’s team has also found a wide array of everyday items, which provide a fascinating insight into life in the capital of Cyprus over two thousand years ago. The most interesting finds include an ancient surgeon’s treatment room, with a number of perfectly preserved medical instruments, such as a long, thin spoon, pincers, a number of tools probably used to set broken bones, and an intact glass unguentarium, a vessel used for holding oils, perfumes as well as medications. The archaeologists have also found remains of several old wells, where the city inhabitants stored drinking water, the shortages of which have always been a problem on Cyprus. Each of them, when no longer used, was filled with a number of ancient relics, mainly remains of clay vessels, but also – to a lesser extent – glass vessels, olive lamps, terracotta items, metal utensils, and coins.

“We hope that the forthcoming new stage of Polish research on Cyprus will add to the knowledge about the ancient city of Nea Paphos and allow its reliable visualisation”, concludes Prof. Papuci-Władyka.

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