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Unlocking the secrets of Dreamer’s Bay

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester excavating at Dreamer's Bay last year

Injured British military personnel will be taking part in a project to answer key archaeological questions over an ancient harbour on Akrotiri peninsula

A unique collaboration between archaeologists and injured British service personnel will see them pitted in a race against time to discover the secrets of an ancient Roman harbour on the southernmost tip of Cyprus before they are lost forever to the sea.

On the shores of Dreamer’s Bay on the Akrotiri peninsula, ancient buildings are being eroded away by the sea. They comprise part of a larger unknown ancient harbour settlement, now inside the UK Royal Air Force’s busiest operational base. The remains are being investigated through a collaborative archaeology project, involving civilian archaeologists and injured UK service personnel, between September 3 and 17.

The archaeological expedition to Akrotiri, comprising staff and students of the University of Leicester, UK, will be joined by a team of injured military personnel and support staff under Operation Nightingale. Op Nightingale is an award-winning project which seeks to help UK forces personnel and veterans, who have been injured mentally or physically on operations or in other circumstances, to make additional progress through engaging them in archaeology.

The archaeological aim is to explore the extent, nature and history of the ancient port at Dreamer’s Bay, which presents a unique opportunity to study a relatively undisturbed stretch of archaeological landscape.

Dreamer’s Bay harbour is thought to have served the nearby ancient city of Kourion, 13 km to the northwest. Numerous visible architectural remains exist including foundations of a number of large buildings. In the vicinity there are also ancient quarries and rock-cut tombs. In the bay is also an ancient breakwater, now submerged.

Archaeologists hope the project will help them understand the nature and extent of the port settlement and when it was founded. A key question is whether its origins date back to the Hellenistic times (about 300 BC) as has been argued.

Other key questions are whether it flourished because of the silting up of the channel which turned Akrotiri from island to peninsula, creating a need for a harbour at the site, and what role the earthquake and tsunami which devastated Kourion and its region in AD365 may have had on the site.

The archaeological fieldwork will be conducted by a team of academic staff and students from the University of Leicester school of archaeology and professional field archaeologists from the university’s archaeological services, the school’s fieldwork contracting arm. It will be led by project director Professor Simon James, and field director Vicki Score.

The work is conducted with the agreement and support of the antiquities department.

For the servicemen, working on the project helps them rediscover old skills and develop new ones.

“Past experience on Op Nightingale exercises shows that this can help them rebuild self-confidence and prepare for the future, whether through returning to regular duties or planning for civilian life,” said Captain Les Richardson, from the Royal Army medical corps.

“On the archaeological project, working alongside students, they will be introduced by the professional archaeologists to new skills including excavation, survey, processing artefacts and public outreach activities.”

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