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Digs in Cyprus uncover more of Phoenician fort July 19, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Cyprus.
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Digs in Cyprus have uncovered what may be soldiers’ barracks belonging to a sprawling Phoenician fortress that was the island’s largest ancient administrative hub dating back at least 2,500 years, the Cypriot Antiquities Department director said Monday.

Maria Hadjicosti said the discovery this year of the two building complexes in the ancient kingdom of Idalion, some 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of the modern-day capital Nicosia, offers more proof of the site’s significance.

“The discoveries further reinforce Idalion’s role as the island’s largest center of administration in ancient times,” Hadjicosti said.

She said Cypriot and Greek archaeologists found two separate building complexes attached to a large tower overlooking the entire fortress. Pieces of a bronze shield and other metal weapons were found in some of the complexes’ rooms, suggesting they were used as barracks by soldiers assigned to guard duty on the tower.

The Phoenician kings of Kition, a southern coastal town about 14 miles (23 kilometers) southeast of Idalion — now known as Larnaca — had conquered the Greek-ruled city in the middle of the 5th century B.C. and governed it for around 150 years.

Ink inscriptions on 300 marble slabs and pottery shards found at the site over nearly two decades of digs in the 2-square kilometer (square-mile) site indicate how Phoenicians collected taxes from Idalion’s residents.

Excavations on Cyprus have uncovered settlements dating back to around 9000 B.C. Cyprus then saw successive waves of colonization, including Mycenaean Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans and, in the Middle Ages, Franks and Venetians. The island was conquered by Ottoman Turks in 1571 and became part of the British Empire in 1878 before winning independence in 1960.

Other discoveries in earlier digs at the site include a triple olive press — a unique find in the eastern Mediterranean — and large clay vessels used to store wine and olive oil, which were the area’s main products.

Hadjicosti said that, although archaeologists have yet to unearth definitive proof, “it would be reasonable to assume” that the fort overlaid an older palace used by the Greek kings of the city that according to legend was founded by the ancient Greek Trojan war hero Chalcanor.

Idalion was first mentioned in Assyrian written sources of the 7th century B.C. Its name survives in the modern village of Dali.


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