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The Looting of Cultural heritage in Occupied Cyprus

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VOUNI PALACE

IMPORTANT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS IN OCCUPIED CYPRUS

Vouni Palace

    The Palace of Vouni is situated approximately 4 km to the west of the ancient city of Soloi in the west part of the island. The palace is built at the top of a commanding hill. The Swedish Archaeological Mission excavated Vouni between 1928 and 1929 under the directorship of Einar Gjerstad.



Vouni Palace: Aerial view


    The Palace’s construction began at around 500 B.C. and it was destroyed by a fire in the beginning of the 4th century B.C and was not rebuilt. After examining the site’s architecture and pottery, the excavators realized that the palace had four successive phases. During the Palace’s second phase new rooms were added but its initial character remained the same. During the third phase the palace adopted its final character which differs from that of the first phase. Although some changes occurred during the fourth phase of the building’s renovation, the previous plan was not altered.

    The Palace’s first phase is characterized by strong eastern features such as the tripartite division of the official buildings. This is probably partly due to the historical events at the time since in 499 B.C. the kingdom of Soloi took part in a revolt against the Persian rulers. Following a five month siege, the Persians managed to control the revolt and it is then that the neighboring kingdom of Marion (in the area of modern Polis tis Chrysochous, Pafos) built the Palace at Soloi in order to control the surrounding area. In 449 B.C. the Athenian general Kimon captured Marion, dethroned its pro-Persian king and enthroned a philhellene king. During the same period the king of Soloi was possibly dethroned since the palace’s eastern architectural features were at that point replaced with ones that originated in the Greek world. The tripartite division of the official buildings was thus altered and the palace’s central area was formed in such a way that it resembled a megaron with Mycenaean characteristics.

    Both the palace and the smaller buildings around it (mainly temples) were surrounded by a wall creating the impression of a fort. The Palace’s original entrance was in the southwest. At a later stage however, the entrance was sealed and transferred to the northeast. An impressive staircase led to a rectangular courtyard in front of the official quarters. Three of the courtyard’s sides were roofed to form a peristyle portico and a cistern occupied a large area in the courtyard. The Palace’s private rooms were built around the courtyard and in the southeastern corner of the rooms there existed three rooms that functioned as baths.

    The Palace’s east part consisted of a large open space and two rows of storerooms. A well-preserved cistern with a large mouth exists towards the sea. Cisterns were vital for the Palace’s survival since Vouni had no natural water sources. The open space led to a kitchen complex in the southwest. The famous Vouni treasure (gold and silver jewellery and coins) was found in the kitchen yard area, under a wooden staircase that led to the Palace’s second floor. On the storeroom floors one can still notice the rows of conical-shaped cavities that used to support pointed-based storage vessels.

    Outside the Palace there exist a number of temples. These were simple rectangular buildings with open yards and a variety of altars. The most important temple is the one dedicated to Athena, situated at the very top of the hill, towards the southern extremity of the plateau. This temple is dated to the third quarter of the 5th century B.C. and it consists of a courtyard, a forecourt and a large rectangular enclosure. Sculptures used to stand in the forecourt, and one the statue bases can still be seen in the form of holes cut on the rock surface. A semicircular altar was positioned to the right of the entrance, against the enclosure’s east wall. The Temple’s main room was built behind the enclosure, in the west and consisted of a small rectangular room divided into three parts with wooden partition walls. The room’s entrance was in the east. In this room some fine bronzes were unearthed by the Swedish excavators. Among the bronzes are a small solid statue of a cow and two identical groups in relief, each with two lions attacking a bull. Three rooms to the southeast of the temple were used as a treasury and were designed following prototypes at Delphi. Offerings to the goddess were kept in these rooms.



Vouni Palace:
Bronze group of lions and bull






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