Excavations at the world heritage site of the ancient theatre of Nea Paphos have provided an insight on the road network and the foundations of the building, the department of antiquities announced on Thursday on the occasion of the official completion of the 2019 excavations at the southern slope of Fabrika Hill.
“The excavations have enhanced the understanding of the urban layout of Roman cities on Cyprus. We now get a sense of the complexity of the infrastructure built in ancient Paphos for an expanding population and as a representation of Imperial Roman power,” project director Craig Barker of the University of Sydney said.
According to the announcement by the antiquities department, over the five-week season which encompassed the month of October, an enormous amount of soil was moved, revealing a number of ancient and medieval monuments from the area around the Hellenistic-Roman theatre, located in the north-east corner of the ancient capital of Cyprus.
A number of trenches were opened by the Australian team with the intention of exposing the continuation of the paved Roman road, located south of the theatre. This east-west running road, more than eight and a half metres wide and with a sophisticated drainage network, would have serviced the north-eastern gate of the ancient city. Wheel ruts indicate it was used by vehicles and pedestrians. An additional 14 metres length of this road, constructed in the second century AD, were exposed in three separate trenches.
The road was constructed from rectangular limestone pavers and played a pivotal role in the ancient city’s infrastructure and the movement of ancient populations. The excavation has also yielded evidence of earthquake collapse of the fourth century AD.
A new trench confirmed the size of the insula blocks of this part of the ancient city. The depth of this new road compared with the paved road to its north also suggests that the topography of the ancient city was very different to the current landscape.
Other trenches opened in 2019 were positioned in order to understand more about the foundations of the Roman-stage building. Meanwhile excavations on the top of the hill behind the theatre exposed additional features of an important, large medieval building, which seems to have been in use for several centuries.
The theatre of ancient Nea Paphos is one of the most significant Hellenistic-Roman structures in Cyprus; it was in use for more than six centuries between its construction in c. 300 BC and its final destruction by an earthquake around 365 AD. It was initially used for dramatic performances, but in its final Roman phases the theatre was converted to an arena and could be flooded for water spectacles.
The Australian team will return to the site next year to mark the excavation’s 25th anniversary and is working towards a major publication on the architecture and moveable finds from the theatre.
The 2019 team consisted of more than 70 archaeologists, specialists and students from Australia.