By Rebekah Gregoriades
Mathiatis village in the Nicosia district is pushing forward with plans to utilise its two mines and already the community council is mapping the areas, which are part of the World Cultural Heritage, while studies are being carried out to decide on the best way to promote them as unique sights.
There are two mines in Mathiatis, of historical and geological interest, which attract thousands of visitors and scientists – from Cyprus and abroad – and the community is listed in the first travellers maps for its archaeological and historical importance, which is closely linked to the mines.
The importance of the mines becomes more apparent through archaeological excavations carried out at times, with the rare artifacts that come to light being considered unique in the Eastern Mediterranean, and through geological studies by university students.
In an interview with CNA, President of the Community Council of Mathiatis, Theodoros Kyriacou Tsatsos, said the mines were currently unused.
“We, the community council, have asked an architect to map the areas, so that we can utilise them. We are still at the initial stage. We are carrying out studies to see what we can do with the mines, such as nature trails, to turn them into unique sights,” Tsatsos said.
Tsatsos noted that one of the mines, called Strongylos Mine, which is proposed to be included in the UNESCO list of monuments as part of the Troodos Mountain ophiolite – a 90-million-year-old fragment of well-preserved oceanic crust and an excellent example of volcanogenic massive sulphide deposit – “is about 2km south of our community and is the gold mine, which operated in 600BC, starting with copper and continuing with gold”.
“It is a beautiful place. There is a mountain with a pine forest, and the mine is at its foot. It is spectacular and one can see the various strata and the water in the pit. In the beginning, mining was done manually and later on wagons were used. There are several galleries that can hold up to 3,000 people,” Tsatsos said, noting that during the Turkish invasion in 1974, hundreds of people from the surrounding area found refuge in the galleries.
Referring to the second mine, the Kokkinoantonis Mine, to the north, Tsatsos said “there is a huge crater”, adding that “this mine is not of archaeological significance, but of geological importance”.
“One continuously sees students from around the world here, studying the strata”, he said, adding that foreign geologists have pointed out that the strata in the mine can only be found deep under the ocean bed.
Tsatsos said “this is a pyrite mine”, adding that “in order, works began for mining gold, silver, copper and iron”.
The research and mining activity in the area of the northern mine of Mathiatis begain in November 1935 by Cyprus Mines Corporation and continued by the Hellenic Mining Industry until 1990, when its mining lease expired.
Today, the northern mine is of worldwide interest and has been studied by over 30 universities from abroad.
The area of this mine is dotted with antiquities, with the most well-known one being the head of Bacchus, “Dionysus of Mathiatis”, sculpted in limestone 11cm thick and 51,2 cm tall. It dates back to the 2nd and 1st century BC and is exhibited at the Cyprus Museum.
Referring to the other historical monuments of Mathiatis, Tsatsos said “to the northwest of the community, along the river, there are five flour mills, at least 250 years old”.
“We, as a community, want to utilise them so that they can be visited by anyone interested. Because they are quite a distance from each other, it will cost a lot, but we are trying to find ways to proceed”, he said.
Tsatsos said Mathiatis, a village among pine trees, in the centre of Cyprus, just 15 minutes from Nicosia and Larnaca, and half an hour from Limassol, was chosen by the British to set up headquarters after purchasing the island from the Ottoman Turks. “Due to the situation in Nicosia, they opted to set up base in the countryside and chose Mathiatis. Their cemetery still stands today,” Tsatsos noted.
Up until 1964, Mathiatis was a mixed village, with around 220 Greek Cypriots and 220 Turkish Cypriots. Today, Mathiatis has over 800 inhabitants.
Other sites of interest are a small dam and the Seismological Station, to the west of the community, on a hill. “This Seismological Station was built here because Mathiatis is at the centre of Cyprus,” Tsatsos explained.
The community council has also set up a website at www.mathiatis.com to provide information about the community (CNA)