Department of Antiquities


Pyrgos Mavrorachi, Lemesos: Italian National Council for Researches

The Ministry of Communication and Works (Department of Antiquities) announces the end of the first excavation period at the locality Mavrorachi at Pyrgos, Lemesos, for this year. The archaeological mission of the Italian National Council for Researches in Cyprus, which is excavating there, is co-funded since 1998 by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by the Cultural Association Tuscia Cultura, by the Center for Experimental Archaeology “Antiquitates” of Blera Italy and by the Municipality of Pyrgos. Preliminary results are published on the web site

Archaeological excavation has brought to light an architectural complex of about 2000 square meters, which was destroyed by an earthquake around 1800 B.C., at the end of the Middle Bronze Age II. The entire site is calculated by geophysical prospection and GIS systems to 4,000 square meters. In the deepest layers of the excavation, artifacts were found that prove that the site was in use during the earliest phases of the Early Bronze Age (2400-2000 B.C.).

Of particular importance is the discovery of an industrial zone organized around the production of olive oil. This area was also used for the refining of copper, production of bronzes, extraction of aromatic essences for the preparation of perfumes, dyeing and preparation of plant fibers and animal production, weaving, and composing of pharmaceutical substances. A special room with specific equipment for the preparation of wine, which was also used in therapeutic and aromatic, was found too. The various rooms in which the activities took place were intercommunicating.

The site is important for its industrial identity and for the intact prehistoric levels, buried by the sudden collapse of the walls after an earthquake. This particular condition allows, through archaeology, archaeometry, paleobotany, paleozoology and etnoarchaeology investigations to reconstruct the second millennium BC processes of metallurgy, agriculture, medicine and textile production.

In 2008, a second building was discovered and brought to light, to the south of the industrial area. This is a unique construction, consisting of two rooms arranged in a triangular area (12×12×24 meters, 90º/45º/45º). As the nearby building, it was probably destroyed by an earthquake and abandoned around 1800 BC.

The excavator proposed that this building was a cult site with an altar, which was flanked by a channel on two sides. The channel, which is made of pebbles and it is plastered on the sides, might have served as a channel for the disposal of the blood of the sacrificed animals. A squared pit located on the north side of the altar might have been the source for water used in the rituals.

According to the excavator, the religious use of the building is deduced by numerous finds (not only ceramics), including four calcarenite horns of different sizes and a number of animal bones, mainly fragments of crania of bull and rams. The triangular structure seems to date to the last reconstruction episode, which according to the ceramic finds dates to Middle Bronze Age II.

As far as historic parallels are concerned, altars with side channels for the disposal of sacrificial liquids are described in several passages of the Bible, though not in triangular structures. The triangular structure in Pyrgos is unique and it seems to be an enlarged version of a smaller triangular construction positioned in the main building, excavated in the previous years.

This smaller triangular structure, according to the excavator, could belong to an earlier sanctuary, dating to the Early Bronze Age, as its foundations were found in deeper layers. In the middle of this structure, a large hole encircled by a double line of stones was probably the original location of the pithos jar found in fragments around the altar. Fragments of a second pithos jar were found to the south of the altar, together with a fragmentary four-legged Red Polished bowl of rare shape. A pair of copper earrings of the Philia phase (the earliest phase of Early Bronze Age) was excavated in the deepest layers, together with shell pendants and flat-based vessels, characteristic of the earliest phase of Early Bronze Age. All these suggest that the building is one of the earliest constructions at the site.

The location of this cult place next to the area where metallurgical activities took place, is connected by the excavator to the later tradition of the Late Bronze Age where cult places are situated next to areas of metallurgical activities (Myrtou Pygades, Kition, Athienou, Enkomi).

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