Cyprus pays tribute to Sydney archaeologists

31 October 2011

Dr Craig Barker at Nea Paphos.
Dr Craig Barker at Nea Paphos.

The President of the House of Representatives of Cyprus has paid tribute to the tenacious efforts of the University of Sydney's archaeological team in revealing evidence of one of that country's most important cultural sites.

The team has conducted annual excavations in the Cypriot city of Nea Paphos, the country's capital during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, since 1995. It has painstakingly worked at the site of the city's ancient theatre, built in 300BC. One of the city's most important public buildings, the theatre hosted performances and spectacles for more than 600 years and underwent several reconstructions, offering clues about the cultural and economic progress of Cyprus during this period. As well as the theatre the team are excavating a nymphaeum (fountain house) and a Roman-period road, together giving great insight into the urban layout of the city.

The President of the House of Representatives, Mr Yiannakis Omirou this week paid tribute to the team for its contribution to the understanding of the ancient history of Cyprus. At a press conference in Nicosia, he presented a plaque to Paphos Theatre Archaeological Excavations Co-director Dr Craig Barker, as a gift to the team.

"The House of Representatives of Cyprus expresses its deep appreciation and gratitude to the University of Sydney for the discovery of this theatre, which is testimony to the presence of ancient Greek culture in Cyprus," Mr Omirou said.

At the peak of its use, the semi-circular theatre seated 8500 and measured more than 100 metres in diameter. Much of the structure was eventually stripped away but the area came to life again during the Crusades when farmhouses in the former theatre precinct were manufacturing medieval glazed ceramics that were traded across the eastern Mediterranean.

Dr Barker says the excavations have revealed architectural elements of the theatre from its early Alexandrian phase through to later Roman phases and discovered fragments of pottery dating as late as the 8th century AD, suggesting activity at the site long after it ceased to operate as a theatre in the 4th century.

"This site reveals not only more about the role of theatre in the life of the ancient Mediterranean polis, but also about the changing nature of urban spaces in Late Antiquity when we see public spaces converting to private spaces. As the main performance venue in the ancient capital of Cyprus, this was an important structure and it can tell us much about the history of the island", Dr Barker says.

Dr Barker co-directs annual excavations at Nea Paphos with Emeritus Professor Richard Green and Dr Smadar Gabrieli. The team is sponsored by the University's Nicholson Museum, home to one of the most significant Cypriot collections outside Cyprus.

Interested members of the public are eligible to participate in the excavations.

The archaeology team excavating Nea Paphos's ancient theatre, built in 300BC.
The archaeology team excavating Nea Paphos's ancient theatre, built in 300BC.

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