Archaeologists wrap up Idalion excavations in Cyprus

9/23/2005 11:53:30 AM

Excavations in the Lower City of the ancient city-kingdom of Idalion this year brought to the surface workshops as early as the 13th century BC, as well as limestone female sculptures, lamp fragments and terracotta figurines, while other findings indicate that the occupation of the site of ancient Idalion probably began in the Lower City North in the 15th century BC.

According to the Department of Antiquities, the 2005 season of excavation was carried out by the Lycoming College Expedition to Idalion under the direction of Dr. Pamela Gaber.

This season began with the aims to find the earliest levels of the workshops in the northern area of the Lower City, and to discover the nature and extent of the huge building in the southern area of the Lower City. Only some of the goals for the year were met.

At the end of the 2003 season a series of work-surfaces in a deep probe in the industrial area of the Lower City North were found, dating to around 1000 BC.

The goal in that area, both in 2004 and 2005, was to reach bedrock, or ''virgin soil''. Instead, in six weeks of excavation in 2004 the deposit was only a metre lower and several floors deeper into the occupation debris.

Now, however, at the end of the 2005 season, it may be said with certainty that the ancient city of Idalion or ''Edi-il'', as it was known to the Assyrians, had workshops or industrial areas as early as the 12th century, and possibly the 13th century BC, during the last phase of the Bronze Age. In fact, the occupation of the site of ancient Idalion probably began in the Lower City North in the 15th century BC, the earliest occupation layers in this area.

Equally startling were the finds in the monumental building to the south. By the end of the 2004 season, there could be no doubt that the structure was a temple. It is thought that it was most likely dedicated to the great goddess of Cyprus, the Queen of Heaven, who would later be known as Aphrodite to the Greeks.

This year a statue of the Cypriote god known as the ''Master of Animals'' was discovered within the walls of the temple structure. It now seems that the structures in this area were sacred to both the god and goddess of ancient Cyprus, the Wanasa, or Queen of Heaven, sometimes represented as the Mistress of Animals, and her consort, the Wanax, known as the Master of Animals. In fact, the pair of standing stones in an ash pit near the most impressive stone-built altars may represent the divine pair themselves. The temple is of Near Eastern type, with stone built altars, ash pits and standing stones erected in a pattern familiar from the Levant.

At the end of the 2005 season's work, a building, or possibly a pair of structures, were uncovered extending over 50 metres from east to west, and at least 30 metres from north to south, with every indication that the structures will continue in all directions.

Glass found in previous seasons was dated to the 3rd century AD, which may prove to be the final phase of use of the temple. The earliest or ''founding'' levels were discovered on the bedrock, and date to the 9th century BC. Intermediate floors date to the 7th and 6th centuries BC, and the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.

This season the floors in use during the Classical and early Roman periods were found as well as more limestone female sculptures, more lamp fragments, terracotta figurines, and more fragments of finely cut gypsum, which may have been used for facing walls. In one area a fragment of painted wall plaster was found, suggesting that the walls of the temple were beautifully decorated. Two coins found in the last use-phase of the building will help date the final phase of the temple's use.

This year was the last excavation season of the Lycoming College Expedition before a hiatus for publication. Excavation will hopefully be resumed when publication, now in production, is complete.

The goals for the following season will be-once again-to find the extent of the temple in Lower City South, and to return to the sacred area on the East Acropolis, Mouti tou Arvili, and to find its earliest strata. It will be most instructive to compare two sacred precincts at a single ancient city-kingdom site, to expand the archaeologists' knowledge of the religion of ancient Cyprus.