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The Looting of Cultural heritage in Occupied Cyprus




Keryneia castle

Keryneia Castle

    The castle in occupied Keryneia must have existed along with the walled town of Keryneia already during the period of the first Arab raids (middle of 7th century A.D.). The castle’s Byzantine phase can be seen in the remaining architectural elements found in the courtyard and elsewhere that had been incorporated into the Lusignian additions to the castle. It is to this castle that Isaakios Komnenos sent his family and treasures following Richard the Lionheart’s attack in 1191. A 12th century Byzantine chapel still survives in the castle area. The chapel is a domed building supported by four marble columns that must have belonged to an earlier building. The chapel was probably built upon the ruins of an early Christian basilica. It is situated outside the main castle complex and was probably used by the Orthodox community during the Lusignan period.

Keryneia Castle: Byzantine chapel

    In the 13th century the castle underwent major alterations and extensions. In the Lusignan period its plan became rectangular with square towers at its corners (only two towers survive today). The complex’s various buildings were constructed along the interior of the castle’s four sides and the main entrance was positioned in the west wall. The north and east ranges where rebuilt during this period and a large wall was erected in the south. The surviving Frankish period additions survive mainly in the west and east range. The entrance building dates to the 14th century and it probably replaced an earlier Byzantine one. The entrance building is comprised of a single gate which was reinforced with a portcullis. The coats of arms above the gate are medieval but are not in situ. At the angle of the entrance passage is the tomb of Sadik Pasha of Algiers, commander of the Turkish fleet, who died in September 1570, at the time of the Ottoman conquest.

Keryneia Castle: Byzantine chapel

    In the castle’s west range there are doorways cut through the section of the Byzantine west wall which lead into chambers that were added by the Lusignans outside the early wall. In the floor of the lowest of these chambers two rock-cut shafts are most probably the oubliettes in which many prisoners were kept. In the middle-storey of this range there is a large chamber with four bays and slightly pointed intersecting vaulting divided by transverse arches. Above this chamber is what survives of the upper storey of the Frankish west range where it has been suggested that the royal apartments of the later Lusignans were situated.

    In the surviving part of the Frankish east range two large vaulted cisterns occupy the basement level of the first four bays from the south. The next storey, at the level of the courtyard, includes lofty rooms that are the main surviving domestic quarters, distinct from and unconnected to the fighting gallery. It is evident that the east range was formerly joined to a series of small chambers situated along the north wall. From the easternmost of the lower cells one enters into the horseshoe-shaped northeast tower. In the castle’s northwest corner a square tower built by the Lusignans exists which retains parts of the Byzantine tower.

    With the Genoese invasion, when Ammochostos was seized and Lefkosia looted, the Genoese made huge efforts to seize the Keryneia castle but never managed to be successful.

    During the Venetian period (1489 – 1570/71) the castle was altered in order to be able to accommodate the period’s new war methods such as the use of canons. The west wall was rebuilt in 1544 and massive towers with numerous gun-emplacements were constructed on the northwest and southeast angles. In 1560 a great rectangular bastion was added in the southwest corner to provide gun positions on three levels. The Venetians also filled many areas with earth along the south wall in order to form a rampart of over 22 m in thickness. On the eve of the Ottoman conquest the Venetians were considering further improvements since their earlier additions had already become obsolete. These improvements however, never occurred since the castle was handed over to the Ottomans on the 14th of September 1570 after the arrival of the news that Lefkosia had fallen.

    During the Ottoman rule the castle was used by the Ottoman military detachment that was posted in Keryneia. The rest of the Ottoman population also resided in the castle for protection. During the British occupation of the island, the castle was initially used by the British as a prison and later on, until 1950, as a police barrack and a training school. In 1950 it passed under the custody of the Department of Antiquities as an Ancient Monument. The removal of modern additions from the castle and its restoration had almost been completed when in the summer of 1955 it passes again into the hands of the British who used it as a base for the British security forces and as a prison for members of the EOKA organization. Over four years later it was handed over to the Department of Antiquities.

Keryneia Castle: ground plan

    The Keryneia shipwreck

    This ancient shipwreck was located in 1965 outside the Keryneia port and at a depth of approximately 30 m by Andreas Kariolou. In 1967, following an invitation by the Department of Antiquities, a foreign scientific team specializing in underwater archaeology arrived in Cyprus in order to investigate the shipwreck. The team was directed by Michael Katzev from Pennsylvania University (USA). It took the team around five years to manage to haul up and restore the shipwreck. The task of assembling the remains of the ship was headed by Prof. Richard Steffy, who was sent by UNESCO in order to assist the Department of Antiquities.The remains of the ship were conserved at the Keryneia castle in the now occupied part of Cyprus and they remain there to this day.

Keryneia shipwreck remains:
Conservation. Photo: National Geographic

    The ancient ship was 14,75 m long and 4,30 m wide and prior to it sinking it used to travel from the Aegean islands or the Ioanian coast to Cyprus and perhaps even to Syria. The ship traveled during the middle of the 4th century B.C., at the time of Alexander the Great and his successors.

    The uniqueness of this shipwreck lies in the fact that it is probably the best known preserved ship of the end of the classical period in the Greek world. Beneath the large quantity of amphorae and the layer of sand 75% of the ship’s frame was preserved. This find provides invaluable information regarding ancient ship technology and construction.

    Based on the eating and drinking vessels that were unearthed from the shipwreck (4 small plates, 4 ‘kantharoi’ for the drinking of water, 4 olive oil vessels and the remains of 4 wooden spoons) it seems that the ship had a crew consisting of 4 individuals. This was a merchandise ship and at the time of its sinking it was carrying 404 amphorae (Rodian and Samian ware) some of which were stamped. It also carried 29 mill-stones made out of Aegean volcanic rock (from Kos, Nisyros). These mill-stones were probably used as ballasts. Lead weights used for fishing were also found as well as piles of lead and iron used for repairing work. Also a wooden pounder, eight javelin points, seven bronze coins (only two of which could be securely dated and belong to the Hellenistic period, one is dated to 316 – 301 B.C. and the other to 306 – 294 B.C.) were found.

    Food remains are also included in the finds such as: 1 piece of garlic, 18 olive pips and 14,760 fig seeds. 10,000 extremely well preserved almonds were found inside the amphorae and have been dated (using the C14 method) to 288±62 B.C. After an analysis of the ship’s wood we now know that the trees were cut at around 388 B.C.

Keryneia shipwreck pottery and almond remains.
Photo: National Geographic

    In 1982 the Greek Institute for the Preservation of Naval Tradition announced that it would undertake the construction of the Keryneia ship’s replica. This project was undertaken in order for Greek naval tradition to be preserved and so that ancient Greek navigation and ship-building could be studied in a more scientific manner. The building of “Keryneia II” lasted around 32 months and it was made possible with the help of the Greek Ministry of Culture and with donations from the Keryneia Maritime Society and individuals from Greece and Cyprus. On the 6th of September 1986 the “Keryneia II” and a four member crew set sail from Piraeus and on the 2nd of October they triumphantly entered Pafos harbor.

Keryneia ancient shipwreck.
Photo: National Geographic


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