Paphos Theatre Archaeological Project

theatre at Paphos, Cyprus

Since 1995 the University of Sydney has conducted excavations at the World Heritage-listed site of Nea Paphos under the auspices of the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus. The Australian mission has been concentrating on the excavation of the ancient theatre and surrounding environs of the town that was the capital of Cyprus under the Ptolemaic and then Roman administrations. To date the excavations have seen over 400 Australian and international archaeologists, students and volunteering members of the public have helped uncover the remains of ancient Cyprus. The excavations have revealed a theatre used for performance and entertainment for over six and a half centuries (c. 300BC to the late fourth century AD). At its maximum extent during the reign of the Antonine Emperors of the second century AD, the theatre could seat over 8500 spectators. Considerable Medieval and post-medieval period finds have also been uncovered, as Paphos was a major trading port at the time of the Crusades. Fieldwork is currently concentrating on investigating the urban layout of the surrounding theatre precinct including revealing paved Roman roads and a Roman nymphaeum (water house).

The project excavates in Cyprus for approximately a month annually. As well as the physical excavation of the site, the team is working on the interpretation, cataloguing and publication of ceramic and other finds. The project is interested in the development of theatre architecture, the materiality of the spread of theatrical performance to the eastern Mediterranean during the Hellenistic period, ceramic production in Cyprus from the Hellenistic to post-medieval periods, the urban layout of the ancient city, and the Roman use of water in an urban context. To date the project has produced four PhDs, one masters dissertation and over twenty-five scholarly articles.

The Paphos excavations are the Nicholson Museum’s fieldwork project supported by the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens. The Nicholson Museum has had a long history of interest in the archaeology of Cyprus. Over 1500 Cypriot items are housed in the collection, including many finds excavated or acquired by former curator James Stewart (1913-1962) who conducted significant fieldwork in Cyprus in the mid-twentieth century.

Future Field Seasons

The Paphos Theatre Archaeological Project will be carrying out excavations at the Nea Paphos Theatre site in coming years. Applications to join the team as a student or contributing volunteer will be available via this website once reopened.

To find out more information and to apply to join the team please visit the project website.

Research Team

Co Director: Emeritus Professor J Richard Green, The University of Sydney
Co Director: Dr Craig Barker, The University of Sydney
Co Director: Dr Smadar Gabrieli, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Over the years several hundred people have been involved in the archaeological excavations at the site of the ancient theatre in Paphos, be it as part of the professional archaeological team, a student member, or as a contributing volunteer - more about our team.

Photos from the trenches

Excavation team at work, 2007