Sophocles Hadjisavvas

The Phoenician Period Necropolis of Kition, Volume I and II

Cyprus Department of Antiquities, 2012 and 2014

 

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, Cypriot scholars engaged in the field tended to ignore the importance of the people who contributed significantly to the development of Mediterranean economy and culture during the first half of the 1st millennium BCE. Therefore, the Phoenician chapter remained for long inactive in the history of Cypriot archaeology. It was only recently, and after the great success of the exhibition entitled The Phoenicians in the Palazzo Grassi in Venice that we observe some local interest on the history of this marine people and their role played in the history of Cyprus.  

Kition represents the most important Phoenician colony on the island. Over the years, looters and scholars have been active in the vast necropolis surrounding its city wall. 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 introduced on the island by the Phoenicians.

My first involvement in the Kition Necropolis occurred in 1979 when asked to direct large-scale rescue excavations at a proposed refugee settlement project called ‘Agios Georgios’. In 1984 another part of the Kition necropolis became the object of rescue work around the church of Agios Prodromos. In 1989, I undertook the investigation of an intact tomb, accidentally uncovered at the site of Mnemata (meaning graves)and a year later a built tomb with unique architectural features appeared on a construction site requiring the attention of an archaeologist.  However, the most exciting tomb presented in this publication is a built tomb, accidentally uncovered in 1998 and fully excavated in 1999.
The results of all excavations undertaken by the present writer at the necropolis of Kition are presented in two volumes, published thanks to the generosity of the White-Levy Program. New evidence, mainly pertaining to funerary architecture and burial customs, demonstrate the importance of this cemetery, which influenced in many ways a much broader area on the island of Cyprus. The Phoenician Period Necropolis of Kition Vol I published in 2012 present the results of the rescue excavation of 63 rock-cut chamber tombs at the site of Agios Georgios and 22 similar tombs at the site of Agios Prodromos.

The Phoenician Period Necropolis of Kition Volume II (2014) is primarily the final report of the excavation of two important built tombs, namely the Ikarou Street Tomb and the “Lefkaritis Tomb”, excavated in 1990 and 1999 respectively. Both represent important landmarks in the history of Cypriot architecture. The “Lefkaritis Tomb” is the most elaborate example of a built tomb roofed in the corbelling technique, while its finds and equid burials suggest an elite interment in the formative period of kingship on the island. The tomb was furnished with unique jewelry some currently on show in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (Assyria to Iberia at the dawn of the Classical Age).  The Ikarou Street Tomb is so far unique as an example of a “Macedonian” type chamber tomb, the only one with a true vault, from the period immediately after the abolition of the Cypriot City-Kingdoms. This volume also includes specialized studies of groups of finds, published in Volume I. A discussion of all of the evidence derived from the excavations at ‘Agios Georgios’and Agios Prodromos is also included in this publication. The prime responsibility of the excavator, to present the results of his excavations to the public as completely as possible, is fulfilled with this final report.

 

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