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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Archaeologists Unearth Oldest Temple in Region


EXCLUSIVE By Demetra Molyva

Archaeologists have uncovered what they believe is the most ancient religious site in Cyprus and unique to the Mediterranean

The one of a kind, triangular shaped temple at Pyrgos-Mavroraki, outside Limassol, dates back to around 2,000 BC - beating previous discoveries by a thousand years.

It was unearthed by a team of Italian archaeologists led by Rome-based expert Maria Rosaria-Belgiorno of the Archaeological Mission of the Italian National Council for Research.

“This is the first evidence of religion in Cyprus at the beginning of the second millennium BC,” she told The Cyprus Weekly from Rome.

“The temple is the most ancient found in Cyprus and of a unique triangular shape. The finding sheds new light on the existence of religion on the island, since the oldest temple found in Cyprus before that was Kition and Enkomi, both dating to 1,000 BC,” she added.
The temple is not a rural sanctuary, but part of an urban, industrial settlement.

“We found no statues, although there is evidence that it is a monotheist temple. The most important thing is the altar and the blood channel running on two sides.”

The site is not Aegean-like, but resembles temples in Palestine and of the Canaanite religion, and has links to descriptions in the Bible.

“Among the finds we found stone horns which are more ancient than the consecration horns found in Kouklia, Enkomi, Kition, and Myrthou (Pighades) seven centuries later,” Belgiorno said.

The temple was brought to light during excavations in 2008, south of the industrial complex discovered previously.

The religious purpose of the building is confirmed by the materials found, including four calcarenite horns and bones from sacrificed animals.

The mission’s excavations at Pyrgos-Mavroraki began in 1998, and brought to light a protopalatial architectural unit of 4,000 sq. m of the third millennium BC.

Of particular importance was the discovery of an industrial zone, focusing on the production of olive oil, wine and aromatic essences.

An exhibition entitled “Cyprus, a site 4, 000 years old and experimental archaeology on the olive oil, perfumes, metallurgy and textiles of Pyrgos/Mavroraki” opens at the Etrusco National Museum in Viterbo, Italy on April 2.

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