Department of Antiquities


Southwest Cyprus Maritime Landscape Project: Department of Antiquities/Magdalene College, Cambridge/Centre of Maritime Archaeology, Southampton)


(Department of Antiquities, Cyprus
Duncan Howitt-Marshall, Magdalene College, Cambridge
Centre of Maritime Archaeology, Southampton)

The Department of Antiquities announces the completion of this year’s underwater survey in the area adjacent to Kouklia-Palaipaphos by a joint team of maritime archaeologists and remote sensing specialists from the Universities of Cambridge and Southampton, and the UK’s National Oceanography Centre. The project came under the direction of doctoral researcher Duncan Howitt-Marshall of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and forms a crucial part of his PhD data set on the maritime cultural landscape of southwest Cyprus. A diver archaeologist from the Cyprus Department of Antiquities was present throughout the survey.

The area of archaeological significance was first brought to the attention of Duncan Howitt-Marshall in May 2005 by a local spear-fisherman, Dr. Filios Saziedes. During the ensuing summer a collaborative project was set up between the Cyprus Department of Antiquities and the Centre of Maritime Archaeology, Southampton, in order to systematically record the nature and extent of the underwater site. During this first season of fieldwork the team, using a simple method of non-intrusive survey, located an astonishing 120 stone anchors, the second largest collection of such artefacts found to date in the eastern Mediterranean. The precise chronology of the anchors has not yet been fully determined but from the types recorded many could potentially date back to as far as the Bronze Age. The sheer abundance of anchors strongly suggests that this site was an important anchorage in antiquity, and may have served to transport trade items and pilgrims to Palaipaphos and the Sanctuary of Aphrodite from far flung destinations around the Mediterranean world.

The 2006 survey was split into two distinct phases. The first phase focused on remote sensing and geophysical survey of the seabed using Sidescan sonar, mapping the approaches into Kouklia-Palaipaphos and potential east-west sea lands used by mariners in antiquity. The sophisticated suite of remote sensing equipment was supplied and operated by the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, Europe’s premier marine research institute, and searched for cultural anomalies at depths less than 30m. Members of the archaeological diving team raised a small number of sediment samples from the seabed in order to create the basis of a habit map of the offshore area. This multidisciplinary approach will serve to build up a comprehensive picture of the sub-tidal zone, incorporating archaeology, geology, and marine biology in an attempt to create the first digital archive of an underwater site in Cyprus.

The second phase of the 2006 fieldwork concentrated on a non-intrusive diver-deployed survey of the site, which mapped the shallow water area using a comprehensive system of swim-lines. During each line all cultural material was position-fixed in situ using a hand-held GPS (Global Positioning System) and a bathymetric profile of the seabed was logged every four seconds using a dive computer. The data from the profiles will be transcribed into a GIS (Geographical Information Systems) program this autumn at the University of Cambridge, creating the initial layer of the digital archive.

The project team will propose further investigation of the site next year in a bid to date and provenance the abundant array of stone anchors. It is hoped that the study will throw further light on the role of Kouklia-Palaipaphos in the maritime communications networks throughout antiquity.

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