Digs reveal evolution of Paphos theatre

Fragments of marble sculptures from a monument consecrated to the nymphs of ancient Greek and Roman mythology have been uncovered during on-going excavations at Paphos' ancient theatre, the archaeological team in charge of the dig have announced.

Digs reveal evolution of Paphos theatre
Archaeologists working at the theatre of Nea Paphos on the southern slope of Fabrika hill [Credit: Press and Information Office of the Republic of Cyprus]
The 15th season of excavations into one of Cyprus’ largest ancient theatres unearthed a number of significant finds, including fragments of carved marble adornments from the stage and from a monument to the nymphs or nymphaeum.

Paphos was the capital of Cyprus in Greek and Roman times and its ancient archaeological remains are on the World Heritage List.

Of particular interest to the archaeological team, led by Dr Craig Barker and Dr Smadar Gabrielli of the University of Sydney, is that the Paphos theatre is the only ancient theatre of Cyprus not to have undergone modern restoration. As such it is a unique structure because it is the sole remaining theatre containing visible traces of its architectural development.

Investigations have revealed that the theatre underwent five phases of renovations between 300 BC and the 4th century AD, each phase representing the evolution of ancient performance and theatre architecture. Many of the architectural features were robbed in later antiquity, and the area of the site was built over in the Middle Ages.

Five trenches were opened by the team in 2012 in various locations around the theatre and the nearby Roman nymphaeum.

Trench 12A was on the eastern side of the stage building, and located the bedrock foundations of the eastern end of the Roman stage. A new entrance way leading from the south into the eastern section of the theatre was located at a lower level than a Roman period one which may provide a rare indication of the architectural layout of the earlier phases of the theatre building.

Trench 12B continued work in the area of the Roman road to the south of the theatre that began in 2010, clearing more of the road pavements and more of a medieval building above it.

Trench 12C was on the upper levels of the cavea, the underground cells where wild animals were confined before entering combat on stage, and indicates that there were significant buildings constructed on the top of Fabrika hill after the theatre was no longer in use for performance.

All areas provided new architectural information about the layout of the theatre and surrounding building, and all areas will be explored further in the future.

In parallel with the excavation, the team’s specialists continued the archaeological interpretation of the architecture for a final academic publication in the near future.

The Australian archaeological excavations in Paphos are supported by the Nicholson Museum and by the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens.

Source: Cyprus Mail [November 27, 2012]

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