The excavation at Kouklia in progress
My mother is from the town of Morphou in Cyprus and I therefore have always felt a special connection with the Cypriot collections in the antiquities department. One significant group is material from Kouklia, from a joint excavation between our museum and St. Andrews University. The excavation was ambitious and of significant scale and attracted a lot of media attention as a result. It was undertaken across five successive seasons from 1950 - 1955. It's hard to imagine museums having the resource to undertake such a large excavation today in the current economic climate.
The area of Kouklia in Palaepaphos (Old Paphos) was where the original centre of the kingdom of Phaphos was and the centre for trade and distribution of copper from the ores of the mountain Troodos. Paphos itself was believed to have originated from the Cyprus’ legendary pre-Greek king, Kinyras.
It was only in the 4th century BC that the centre of the kingdom was moved to the current port of New Paphos. The gold, ivories and sculptural fragments from the excavation provided evidence of the rich culture and political position of the old centre of the kingdom. The head of the Priest-King (pictured here) is important visual evidence of the king’s dual role. Most exciting was the discovery of what was believed to be at the time the siege ramp used by the Persians to take over the kingdom.
The head of a Priest King, found at Kouklia
Most of material from the excavation remained in Cyprus and can be viewed at the local museum of Kouklia. As it was common practice at the time, the collaborators (Liverpool Museums and St. Andrews University) shared some of the findings. Here at World Museum, we also hold most of the archive of the excavation with reports, lists, accounts and drawings of the site.
It has not been easy piecing together the excavation that took place a while back and has yet to be fully published. I do hope that digitising the material will facilitate links with other institutions in the UK and Cyprus and generate further interest in the collections.
There were many enjoyable moments in this process, particularly getting a glimpse of Cyprus at the time of the excavation, almost idyllic and peaceful and despite the fact that the fight for independence had started. It was also rewarding to find the photographs and names of the local people who worked in the excavation and who often tend to be forgotten.
Explore material from our Kouklia collection online now.