The Town of Athienou and Cyprus

The region of modern Athienou (pop. ca. 5,000), the focus of our project, is situated in central-eastern Cyprus on the southern edge of the agriculturally rich Mesaoria plain.

This location offers an equidistant (and fairly unimpeded) line of communication and travel to three of the island’s largest modern/ancient urban centers (Nicosia/Ledra, Famagusta/Salamis, and Larnaka/Kition), as well as numerous other important settlements in the region (e.g., Dhali/Idalion and Politiko/Tamassos).The area witnessed the earliest organized archaeological work on the island, including the efforts of the infamous Luigi Palma di Cesnola (1878), a contemporary of Heinrich Schliemann and one of the 19th-century romantic antiquarians who defined the new field of classical archaeology. Cesnola, who served as a Union colonel during the Civil War and later as American, Greek, and Russian consul to Cyprus, primarily explored tombs and sanctuary sites to the north and east of Athienou—an area identified with the ancient Golgoi mentioned in classical texts (e.g., Theokritos, Ovid, Pausanias).

Cesnola later became the first director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; his collection of statues from Golgoibecame the core of the museum’s holdings. Somewhat earlier, a French mission under the leadership of Melchior de Vogüé explored several sites across the island, including Golgoi; it was the mission’s architect,Edmond Duthoit, who initially explored a religious sanctuary at Malloura to the southwest of Athienou, from which the team retrieved scores of statues now in the Musée duLouvre in Paris.

Despite the efforts of authorities on the island, the area was ignored by archaeologists for nearly 80 years. In the intervening time, looting of sites by locals was common (see Toumazou, this volume). Prior to the Turkish invasion of 1974, important excavations in the late 1960s and early 1970s at Athienou were carried out by teams from Greece and Israel. It is interesting to note that these two projects represent the first excavations by Greeks and Israelis outside of their national boundaries; it remains the only mission outside of Israel.

Having over the years cultivated many positive relationships with local residents, AAP team members have enjoyed summer residence in Athienou for over two decades. Students and staff have come to love their hospitable home-away-from-home in Cyprus, creating fond memories at village restaurants, cafés, cultural events and weddings. Athienou is thus a great setting for cultural immersion and fieldwork training such as ours.