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UC Discoveries This Summer Reveal History of Cyprus Site

Work by a team from UC's Classics department has paid off this summer with new insights into the history of an ancient city on Cyprus.

Date: 8/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
By: Gisela Walberg
Phone: (513) 556-1938
Other Contact: Carey Hoffman
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photos By: Colleen Kelley

UC ingot   A team of archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati is currently working on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. The team is headed by Gisela Walberg, Marion Rawson Professor of Aegean Prehistory at the Classics Department. Members of the team are two graduate students from the department, Sarah Dieterle and Lynne Kvapil, and for some weeks they were assisted by Tanya Borsuk, a graduate student from Rutgers University, and Stella Diakou from the University of Cyprus.
Excavation by the UC team in Cyprus.


The team is fortunate in having Elias Markou as an excavation architect and draftsman. Markou has 40 years of experience from work with the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, and with Canadian, American and Australian expeditions in Greece, Jordan, Syria and Tunisia. It is also fortunate in having Colleen Kelley and Mary Strubbe as excavation photographers. Kelley worked for UC’s Photo Services department for several years, and Strubbe taught photography at DAAP for a few years.

The excavation site, called Episkopi-Bamboula, is one of four major coastal Late Bronze Age (c.1500-1050 B.C.) urban centers. It was built on a low hill at the mouth of the river Kouris, once the largest river in Cyprus, but now dry because of the construction of a dam in the foothills of the Troodos mountains. The river and its valley may have been important for the transport of various kinds of raw material from the inland to the coast.

Cleaning a shard uncovered at the site.

Cyprus seems to have played a leading role in long-distance maritime trade between Greece and the Aegean, Egypt and the Levant, especially during the 13th century B.C. Analyses of metal objects in circulation during the 13th century have indicated that Cypriot copper was traded far beyond the island, and this copper must have come from the Troodos foothills. Last summer, the UC team found copper slag in a Late Bronze Age tomb at the site.

The goal of the UC team is to find evidence for the emergence and history of Episkopi-Bamboula as a Late Bronze Age international trade center. Some finds which indicate the importance and international character of the site during the 13th century were made during early excavations by the University of Pennsylvania. However, the director of these excavations died prematurely in 1948. The results were published by others in 1972 and 1983, but important information was lost.

Gisela Walberg looks over a soil sample chart near her trench.

This year's finds have been particularly exciting. The UC team was able to locate a Late Bronze Age fortification wall, which was found during the early excavations, and to trace it for another 156 meters along the entire side toward the river up to a point where it had been cut off by a road from Limassol to Paphos. A stretch of the foundations of another fortification wall, protecting the site to the east and to the south toward the sea was also found. As a result, we now have a good idea of how this wealthy Late Bronze Age city was defended during some of its existence.

At the beginning of July, the UC team found a sequence of six floors in an area of the hill which overlooks the river bed to the east. Since these floors represent different phases of the history of Bamboula, they undoubtedly will provide evidence for different aspects of the development of the city.

UC grad student Lynne Kvapil hoists a bucket from her trench.

At the same time, we found to our surprise that a late Roman entrance to the southeastern part of the site was hiding an earlier water cistern, which seems to be fed by a spring. In October, an earlier Roman well which still provides cool and clean water was found nearby. This area of the city was defended at the end of the Late Bronze Age by a wall built of huge blocks, and we now have an explanation for why so much effort was spent on defending this area. The area offers a good view of the river and .the sea, and access to fresh water within the fortifications of the city would have been invaluable for the inhabitants, if the city was besieged. We are not yet sure of the date of the cistern, but the spring is likely to have been known during the Bronze Age.

The team is now studying the finds from the areas around where the floor sequence and the cistern were found, as well as from other trenches excavated at Bamboula in June and the first half of July.

The team working this summer at Bamboula.

A trench near the cistern contained walls and floors from the Archaic (c. 750-475 B.C.) to the Roman period (50 B.C.- 395 A.D.), and in another trench, we revealed a Roman bathing establishment. These finds indicate that the site of Episkopi-Bamboula was not abandoned at the end of the Bronze Age, but continued to be inhabited for another 1,400 years. 

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