Department of Antiquities


North Hall of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, Palaipaphos: Zurich University

Excavations at the North Hall of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite
during the season 2007

The Department of Antiquities announces the completion of this season´s excavations at the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Palaipaphos which was first investigated by the Cyprus Exploration Fund in 1888 and excavated systematically by the Swiss-German Archaeological Expedition in 1973–79 and 1993–95. Only the extreme northeast corner of the building complex, covered by a 19th century village house, had remained inaccessible. Part of this structure was removed recently, and on the request of the Department of Antiquities the area was excavated in late September and early October.

The North Hall marks the northern confines of the Sanctuary. Like the South Stoa, it served as cultic banqueting hall - a type of building developed from the original Greek banqueting hall by substituting continuous platforms for the individual stone-built klinai. The worshippers rested during meals on a raised podium which enclosed a mosaic pavement, decorated with a geometric pattern. We were able to recover to a large extent the foundations of the eastern and northern outer walls as well as of the eastern and northern podium walls, and thus to complete the plan of the North Hall. It extended over the entire width of the Sanctuary site, covering a space of 62.5 by 12.5 m. At the same time, further 26 square metres of the mosaic pavement, in a fairly good condition, could be uncovered.

From the point of view of earlier work in the Sanctuary, these results were in a way predictable. Unexpected were discoveries made while excavating the podium walls. Here architectural fragments were reused in the foundations as building material, comprising beside Doric limestone columns elements of a very unusual votive monument resembling features of Nabataean architecture from Petra and other sites. The structures of the Roman sanctuary surviving today were erected during the late 1st or early 2nd century AD. These new finds point to the existence of earlier buildings on the site, dating from the late Hellenistic or early Roman period. At the same time they testify to influences of Near Eastern art which may present an interesting prospect of further research.

The northeast corner of the North Hall, with column drums
and other spoliae built into the podium wall

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