Sophocles Hadjisavvas

The Phoenician Period Necropolis of Kition, Volume I

Cyprus Department of Antiquities

 

As early as 1948, Einar Gjerstad took the first serious step towards the study of the role played by the Phoenicians in the culture of Cyprus. Unfortunately, scholars engaged in the field, who, perhaps showing Homer's prejudice, tended to ignore the importance of the people who not only gave the alphabet to the Greeks, but who also contributed significantly to the development of Mediterranean culture during the first half of the 1st millennium B.C. did not follow up this first step. The chapter entitled The Phoenicians remains inactive in the history of Cypriot archaeology. It was only quite recently, after the great success of the exhibition entitled The Phoenicians in the Palazzo Grassi, organized by the late Sabatino Moscati, the leading Italian figure in Phoenician studies that we observe some local interest related to our ancient neighbors.

My first involvement with the Kition Necropolis was in 1979 when I was asked to direct large-scale rescue excavations, to be undertaken in advance of a proposed refugee settlement project called Agios Georgios, at the site of Mnemata. Since then all interim reports have referred to the site as the Agios Georgios cemetery. In 1984, another part of the Kition necropolis became the subject of rescue work at the site of Agios Prodromos. In 1989, I undertook the investigation of an intact tomb, accidentally uncovered on the fringes of Mnemata and a year later a built tomb with unique features appeared on a construction site requiring the attention of an archaeologist. The most exciting tomb appearing in Vol. II of this publication is a built tomb registered as M.LA 1742, accidentally uncovered in 1998 and fully excavated in 1999.

In this publication, the results of the excavations of the Phoenician period necropolis of Kition are presented. Some new evidence, mainly concerning the funerary architecture and burial customs, will demonstrate the importance of this cemetery in understanding some social aspects of everyday life at Kition during the period of Phoenician supremacy. In spite of the fact that very little has been published thus far, the necropolis of Kition is the most extensively investigated burial ground on the island of Cyprus. From as early as the 16th century there are a number of romantic descriptions of caves and sepulchers written by travelers of the time.

Over the years, looters and scholars have been active in the vast necropolis surrounding the city wall of Kition. Cesnola alone, the American consul of the last quarter of the 19th century, claimed to have explored more than 3,000 tombs in the area of Larnaca, so-called after the immense number of sarcophagi found in the modern town (Cesnola 1877, 52ff).

 

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