Excavations at Dreamer’s Bay on the southern shores of the Akrotiri peninsula in the Limassol district, contains archaeological remains that appear to indicate that it represents one of the best-preserved ancient ports in the Mediterranean, it has emerged.
The announcement was made by the department of antiquities to mark the completion of the 2018 archaeological mission by the University of Leicester at Akrotiri-Dreamer’s Bay.
Excavations focused on remains of stone buildings of apparent Roman/early Byzantine date close to the shoreline, partly exposed by marine erosion. This year’s excavation was supplemented by geophysical survey, conducted in January when vegetation and soil conditions were most favourable in order to explore the extent of the still part-buried ancient buildings, and surface geological and archaeological survey of ancient cliff-top quarries to the east.
“All the archaeological remains on land are apparently linked to an ancient harbour in the bay below,” the department said.
“Taken together, these remains appear to represent one of the best preserved ancient port sites in the Mediterranean.”
Some years ago, the buildings, spread along 0.5km of relatively low shoreline—the only low ground on an otherwise cliff-bound coast—underwent initial investigations by the University of Buffalo, and were believed to comprise elements of a late Roman/early Byzantine (4th -7th century AD) port facility, perhaps serving the major Greco-Roman city of Kourion 13km to the north. Connections between these onshore structures and submerged archaeological remains in the bay to the east, including a masonry breakwater, remain to be investigated.
The shoreline structures were found to be more extensive and more complex than the simple rectangular ‘warehouses’ hitherto presumed. Several are now seen to have internal subdivisions, and/or to possess adjacent walled courtyards containing evidence of activity in the form of pits containing burned deposits, perhaps indicating industrial processes. The structures also broadly share a common orientation, the entire layout giving the impression of a single, short, planned episode of layout and construction.
Provisional assessment of the sealed pottery groups recovered from the shoreline buildings, undertaken by Dr Stella Demesticha of the University of Cyprus, indicates that they were constructed far earlier than hitherto assumed from scatters of ceramics on the surface. They were in use perhaps during the second century, and certainly during the third and fourth centuries AD, most appearing to have been destroyed by the earthquake which devastated nearby Kourion around 360 AD.
In 2018 excavations revealed the southern end of another long, subdivided building with a courtyard to its east.
“Unfortunately, it was eroded to below floor level, but ceramics which had washed down-slope were sampled for analysis,” the department said.
To the east of the complex, a test-pit over a geophysical anomaly and other surface indications confirm existence of another long, subdivided building on an east-west orientation, probably with a courtyard on the south side, now largely lost to the sea.
In area 2 midway along the shoreline, further test pitting of geophysical anomalies showed that the previously-investigated Structure 5 was considerably longer than hitherto realised, apparently running for 50m and apparently joining a second structure making it part of a large complex in this area.
The ancient cliff-top quarries apparently associated with the port were also surveyed this year. These exploited marine conglomerates of various grades, some cut as squared blocks presumably for constructional purposes, others for millstones. Associated features including buildings and what seems to be a ceramic-piped water channel suggest that at least some of this quarrying activity is Roman, but confirmation must await planned excavation and if possible scientific dating in 2019.
The archaeological mission was carried out under the direction of Professor Simon James, consisted of professional excavation staff and undergraduate students of the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology & Ancient History, assisted by graduate students from the University of Cyprus.
It was conducted with the permission of the antiquities department and the British bases, and funded by the Honor Frost Foundation.
The excavations were conducted between March 30 and April 16 this year at and around the locality of Dreamers Bay (Nisarouin) on the southern shores of the Akrotiri peninsula.