Reports in the Turkish Cypriot press (Olay 3.5.1982, Il Giornale dell’ Arte no. 48, September 1987) have revealed that the site’s dig-house has been looted and that illegal excavations have been carried out in the necropolis. Vegetation, grazing and indications of excavations being carried out by unauthorized persons are causing extensive destruction to the site. Considering the site’s importance and its threatening destruction, the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus submitted Enkomi for nomination in the List of 100 Most Endangered Monuments (World Monuments’ Watch).
A. ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES
1. Toumba tou Skourou, Morphou
Toumba tou Skourou
Toumba tou Skourou near Morphou is one of the most important Late Bronze Age sites on the island. Excavated by a team from Harvard University, Toumba tou Skourou was an important harbor town in antiquity, at a time when the bay of Morphou reached further towards the island’s interior. When the Turkish Army invaded Morphou on the 15th of August 1974, the site’s pottery which was previously stored in the monastery of St. Mamas was transferred to one of the old people’s homes in the Morphou Public Gardens, next to the Turkish army barracks. The soldiers got rid of the material when extra storage space was needed. Some of the lost items were later traced by the excavators in the U.S.A. as they seem to have been given as gifts by Turkish government officials.
In addition, the excavators (Archaeological Mission of Boston, Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University) sadly reported that, after visiting the site at a later date, the site seemed to be deteriorating. Two of the large pithoi left on site had disappeared (Olay 3/5/82). The sanctuary site near Myrtou preserved a unique altar crowned by horns of consecration. According to reports (Kibris 3.1.1996) the site has been completely abandoned and that it is used as grazing land.
2. Soloi, Morphou
Soloi was one of the most important Cypriot kingdoms. It lies on the northeastern coast near Karavostasi bay. The original settlement dates to the Cypro-Archaic I-II period, although there are indications that the area was inhabited by Mycenaean colonists in the Late Bronze Age. The city flourished in the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Early Christian periods as is demonstrated by the excavated remains of the city wall, the temple of Athena, the Hellenistic palace, the Roman theatre, the Nymphaeum, the Early Christian basilica and the great number of finds witnessing its high cultural standards and prosperity.
Soloi is one of the most important archaeological sites and tourist attractions of Cyprus. Due to the area’s inaccessibility, no conservation project has been undertaken on the site. Many articles in the Turkish Cypriot and foreign press report damages in the area. Several projects, such as the area’s irrigation project (Kibris, 14/6/90, Cyprus Weekly, 22/6/90) have caused damages to the architectural remains, which are also threatened by vegetation, clearly visible in photographs published in the Turkish Cypriot press (Turquoise, Autumn 1990, issue Eight, Cyprus Times, 8/6/90 and 12/10/90). Large quantities of archaeological material in the depots of the Canadian Mission have been looted (The Guardian, 11/8/76) and both pillaging and illegal excavations in the surrounding cemeteries are extremely common (Zaman, 27/7/76). The Vouni Palace is now in the military zone and according to the Turkish Cypriot press (Olay Magazine 3/5/82) the city walls have been pulled down. According to the Turkish Cypriot press (Haber, 1/8/98) the site’s important floor mosaics are threatened with complete destruction due to lack of conservation and the complete indifference of the “authorities”.
The French Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres reacted against the destruction of the site, the looting of the French Missions’ Dig House and Depots in a resolution addressed to the Director of the Department of Antiquities.
Gastria - Alaas
Gastria- Alaas in the Ammochostos district (near the village Gastria) is one of the most important prehistoric cemeteries in Cyprus. Rock-cut tombs have been found along with large quantities of rich grave goods (vessels, figurines etc.). The tombs are dated to the end of the Mycenaean period and the Proto-Geometric period. The Department of Antiquities’ excavations were abruptly terminated with the 1974 Turkish invasion.
According to local T/C reports the site was destroyed after the construction of a gypsum factory (Olay Magazine, 26 April 1982). Another T/C press report (Avrupa 15/4/98) mentions that a permit was issued to a private firm for the use of petroleum installations at this very important archaeological site.
Enkomi is an extensively excavated ancient city and one of the most significant commercial centers of the Late Bronze Age (1600-1500 B.C.) in the Eastern Mediterranean. The original settlement was established in Middle Cypriote III (1725-1650 B.C.) on a gentle slope bordered in the east by the edge of a low rocky plateau, which extends towards the modern village of Enkomi. The location of this fortified town which had a flourishing copper industry and was situated near the eastern coast and was equipped with an inner harbor must have been the decisive factor for its development and its cosmopolitan character.
Enkomi’s cemetery is known to be the richest Late Bronze Age cemetery in Cyprus. At the end of the 19th century a number of excavations were conducted in the area. The most fruitful excavations were those conducted after World War II (1946-1955) and those carried out by the Cyprus Department of Antiquities from 1948-1958. The excavations also brought a palatial residence to light which is considered to be one of the most outstanding structures of Late Bronze Age domestic architecture discovered so far in Cyprus.
The “Cyclopean” defensive walls, the sanctuaries of the Horned God and Enkomi’s other public buildings, together with numerous finds of Mycenaean pottery, metalwork and minor works of art, give us a glimpse of the commercial and economic progress and of the city’s high cultural levels.
At about 1075 B.C. a natural phenomenon, probably an earthquake, destroyed the town. Enkomi was gradually abandoned and succeeded by Salamis, situated nearer to the coast. The last archaeological mission to work on the site in 1974 was the French Centre of Scientific Research.
Salamis was one of the most important cities of ancient Cyprus. According to tradition, it was founded soon after the Trojan War by the Greek hero Teucer, son of Telamon the ruler of the Greek island of Salamis and brother of another important Greek hero, Ajax. It was the most prominent city of Cyprus for a very long time. The city’s population was considerable and included Greeks, Romans and Orientals but the Greek element seems to have prevailed from early on. The city was a stronghold of Hellenism in the Orient. At the same time it served as an important link between the Greek world and the Near East. The island’s main products were exported from the harbor of Salamis, one of the major emporia of the East.
Salamis shared the destiny of the rest of Cyprus during the successive occupations by the various dominant powers of the Near East: the Assyrians, Egyptians and the Persians. During the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. Salamis was a wealthy commercial centre due to its lively trading relations with the eastern Mediterranean. The rich finds from the “Royal Tombs” of the necropolis of Salamis bear witness to high cultural standards and to the economic prosperity during this period. The 7th century A.D. Arab invasions put an end to the life of this ancient city, which was renamed Constantia in the early Christian period. The archaeological site which covers an area of around 6 km2 is situated approximately 8 km from the north suburbs of the modern town of Ammochostos (Famagusta), on one of Cyprus’ most picturesque sandy coasts.
Extensive looting and illegal excavations have been noted in the archaeological site. The Roman Gymnasium is covered in vegetation and sheep are allowed to graze in the area. In 1983 the Department of Antiquities received information that an attempt was made to remove a head from the unique wall-mosaic dating to the 2nd/3rd century A.D. in the Roman Baths of Salamis Gymnasium. The T/C newspaper Olay (3/5/82, Il Giornale dell’ Arte no. 48, September 1987) reported illegal excavations at the Necropolis of Salamis. Further reports mention that the storeroom and the premises of the French Archaeological Mission of Lyon’s University excavating at Salamis until 1974 have been looted. The area around the archaeological sites of Enkomi and Salamis has been divided into building plots causing destruction to the Hellenistic and Roman monuments (Kibris 21.9.1993 and Yeni Duzen 13.9.1993).
A fence was placed around the site for protection against thieves and illicit digging, but it soon disappeared. On the 10th of July 1998, the T/C newspaper Kibris reported the theft of two statues from the archaeological site of Salamis. The two marble statues (height: 150 cm) of Persephone and Clotho adorned the east annex of the Salamis Gymnasium and were later found hidden at a nearby site. Both statues were found undamaged. According to the T/C press (Kibris, 1/8/98) the site is covered in vegetation and dirt.
According to lawful information in September 1999, illegal archaeological activities took place in the area of the ancient Theatre of Salamis. The illegal excavation was secretly undertaken by Turkish and German archaeologists under strict security measures (21/9/99). According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (7/7/2000) the “Research Centre for the Archaeological and Cultural Heritage” of the “University of the East Mediterranean” of the pseudo-Cypriot State began excavations at Salamis on the 15th of June 2000. The excavations which were directed by Joskün Ozgünel, “President” of the above “Centre”, lasted until the 31st of August 2000. According to an article in the T/C newspaper Yeni Düzen (15/7/2005), the eighth season of illegal excavations at ancient Salamis was conducted by Ankara University.
Salamis: Illegal excavations
The Kyrenia district is dominated by the Kyrenia range, which forms a narrow ridge along Cyprus’ north coast. On its north side lies a narrow but fertile plain where the town of Kyrenia and the important villages of Lapithos, Karavas, Agios Amvrosios and smaller settlements are situated.
During the Early Bronze Age the Kyrenia district and the plateau east of Morphou were densely populated as is evident by the large number of cemeteries discovered by archaeologists and looters. Hundreds of burials have been excavated at Vounous near Bellapais, Lapithos and Vasilia. Important Middle Bronze Age fortified settlements have been discovered near Krini and Dhikomo and a concentration of sites has been located near Kyrenia and Morphou, near the village of Myrtou.
The density of occupation was reduced during the Iron Age apart from in places such as Lapithos, Karavas, Agia Irini and the Kafkalla plateau south of the Kyrenia range. During the period of Persian rule there were two city-kingdoms in the district, those of Lapithos and Kyrenia. The importance of the Kyrenia district was further reduced during the Hellenistic and Roman periods when all major activities were transferred to the main harbor towns of Salamis and Pafos. However, in the sea off Kyrenia a unique shipwreck of the 4th century B.C. was discovered and excavated by an American team.
According to the T/C press (Avrupa, 28/9/98) the historic Roman tombs of Kyrenia suffer from the complete indifference of the “responsible authorities”. Their front area is used as a car park and there is a rubbish-dump in the area behind the tombs.
According to a front-page article in the T/C press (Avrupa, 23/11/99), the quarry situated in the area of Koma tou Yialou village is not only destructive for the natural environment but also causes serious damages to the area’s archaeological sites. The quarry is situated in an area with ancient tombs, which are daily disturbed by the quarry’s activities while other tombs have been completely destroyed.
According to an article in the T/C newspaper Halkin Sesi 23/5/2005, Ammochostos’ Venetian walls are collapsing and are not being restored by the “authorities” of the so-called T/C state. The walls are full of wild vegetation and are in danger of collapsing. In the same article complaints are expressed regarding the fact that the Venetian walls of Lefkosia (Nicosia) are being restored as part of a yearly project launched by UNOPS while the walls of Ammochostos are receiving no attention.
Illegal Excavations and the Destruction of Monuments
In recent years information appears from time to time in the T/C press about illegal excavations in the districts of Ammochostos and Kyrenia. Illegal excavations and the destruction of archaeological sites have been reported in the villages of Agios Epiktitos, Krini, Galinoporni, Eptakomi, Ovgoros, Galatia, Ardana, Agios Sergios, Gastria, Enkomi and at the necropolis of Salamis (Olay 3 May 1982).
Clandestine excavations have also been noted in the Valia forest and in the villages of Platani, Lapathos and Agios Iakovos which was renamed “Altinova” (“Golden Place”) because of the richness of archaeological finds.
Additional proof of illegal excavations in the occupied part of Cyprus is the objects that were confiscated by the Dover Customs (U.K.) in 1979. A number of Cypriot antiquities were found in the luggage of a T/C smuggler. Another object found during illegal excavations is the unique Mycenaean four-wheel bronze stand sold in Frankfurt after 1974 by Turkish antique smugglers. The Government of Cyprus acquired the stand with a financial contribution from the A.G. Leventis Foundation for the sum of CY£9.500.
According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (21/4/99), an ancient tomb dating to the 8th century B.C. was found in the area between the occupied villages of Gypsou and Lefkonoiko in the Ammochostos district. The grave goods consisted of various pottery objects such as amphorae and vessels dating to the Archaic period.
According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (31/12/99), a head adorned with a laurel wreath belonging to a 2400 year old a statue was found in the courtyard of a house in the occupied village of Agios Sergios in the Ammochostos district. The head was found and handed over to the so-called “Department of Antiquities” by the occupant of the house Ms Erika Bonstein of German nationality.
According to an article in the T/C newspaper Yeni Demokrat (6/1/2000), the destruction of antiquities and of other cultural monuments in the occupied areas is still occurring. There is special mention of the destruction of the “Lusignan house”, the “Catholic church” and the “reservoir” in the village of Elia Morphou in the Lefkosia district. It is also mentioned that the “Catholic church” has been turned into a stable and that new constructions have been erected near the “reservoir”.