Malloura Valley The area encompassing the Malloura Valley and the modern village of Athienou is rich in archaeological heritage.
Within the Malloura survey area, an Archaic-Roman rural sanctuary, Archaic-Roman chamber tombs at Mağara Tepeşi, remains of a Roman-Ottoman settlement, and some thirty Venetian period burials have been located. In the outlying areas, earlier excavations by other teams at Golgoi, Agios Photios, and Bamboulari have been undertaken.
The Chamber Tombs of Mağara Tepeşi (Cypro-Archaic through Roman) Moderate scatters of Cypro-Archaic, Cypro-Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman material were found around the looted rock-cut tombs northwest of the Malloura site at Mağara Tepeşi. Locals report that as recently as the 1960s, the entire hilltop was dotted with small tombs mostly destroyed by looting, bulldozing, and plowing. Our excavations here focused on two areas, the northwest summit of the hill and the lower northeast slope. At the northwest, a cluster of four small, looted chamber tombs was excavated (Tombs 50–53). These consisted of sloping dromoi cut through havara and conglomerate to a layer of greenish marl where a roughly circular burial chamber was dug out. Above the entrance to the burial chamber, long narrow cuttings were made in the havara for the support of funerary stelai that had been removed prior to our excavations. Two of the tombs (50 and 53) may not have been finished, but fragments of human bone and some Cypro-Archaic ceramics were found in the other two (51 and 52). Excavation of the dromos of a larger tomb (59) in 2005 yielded an impressive, albeit fragmentary, funerary stele depicting a symposiast holding a drinking cup in his left hand; inexplicably, fragments of as many as three additional stelai of late Cypro-Archaic II/Cypro-Classical I date were found in the same dromos as well.
Excavations at the base of the northeast slope of Mağara Tepeşi exposed four large tombs (25–28) cut into the massive white chalk. The typical construction plan included a stepped dromos leading down to a single chamber with three benches cut into the rock. Most impressive from an architectural point of view is Tomb 27 (pictured), which is by far the largest of the group and includes a stepped sunken forecourt with two small loculi as well as a side tunnel and double benches in the burial chamber. The tomb’s size and architectural elaboration make it unique in Cyprus and, in combination with its rich contents, may bespeak of high social status for its occupants. In stark contrast to the sparse finds from Tombs 50–53 of late Cypro-Archaic II/Cypro-Classical I date, located ca. 100 m away on the same hill, large numbers of artifacts overlooked by the looters were recovered during the excavation of this cluster of tombs. They include silver and bronze coins, scraps of metal vessels and nails, gold and silver finger rings and earrings, a gold necklace with carnelian stones, local and imported lamps, and ceramic vessels dating from the Hellenistic period to the second century AD. The quantity and temporal range of the pottery recovered shows that these tombs seem to have been used for generations by extended families. Careful sieving of the fill from Tomb 27, for example, yielded nearly 10,000 pot sherds and skeletal material from no less than 31 individuals.
Late in the Roman period the eastern end of the dromos of Tomb 27 was cut by a water channel that was followed for 6 m of its length. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey in this area indicated that the channel continued eastward for nearly 100 m toward the main stream in the valley. The dimensions of the channel are ca. 0.50 m wide by 1.0 m high, and its roof is corbelled in section. The channel enters the dromos of Tomb 27 at a depth nearly 2 m below the surface. Just west of Tomb 28, two essentially identical rock-cut cisterns 5 m apart were excavated. No artifacts other than a few non-diagnostic sherds were found in the fill of the cisterns, which are almost certainly contemporary; they may relate to water rituals associated with Hellenistic and Roman funerary practices.
The Rural Sanctuary (Cypro-Geometric through Roman periods) The sanctuary on the western edge of Athienou-Malloura was discovered in 1862 by the French mission led by M. de Vogüé. The results of this excavation were never published, although some 70 sculptures in the Louvre have been identified as coming from Malloura. In later years, parts of the sanctuary were looted and hundreds of statues were exported illegally from Cyprus. The sanctuary was relocated during the 1991 AAP field season.
While the vast majority of stratigraphical evidence from the sanctuary places its primary use during the Cypro-Archaic II–Roman periods, the foundation of the sanctuary can be dated to the eighth century, late in the Cypro-Geometric III period. This phase is represented by a small deposit of pottery in the westernmost SMU of a long exploratory trench, EU 94. To date, no architectural features have been associated with this phase, suggesting that it represents a rather modest level of activity in the open air at this stage or that associated Cypro-Geometric architecture was either destroyed through subsequent building or lies farther to the west in unexcavated areas.
The second phase of the sanctuary is dated to the Cypro-Archaic period. However, based on the large amounts of pottery and sculpture (both terracotta and limestone), the Cypro-Archaic II period represents the floruit of the site. Cypro-Archaic material is found lying directly on the bedrock in deep deposits in the eastern part of the sanctuary or incorporated as fill into the hard-packed floor associated with the third major phase in the Hellenistic period. Much of the architecture assigned to the second phase has been either destroyed by or incorporated in later constructions. A series of stout walls constructed in some places directly on bedrock in the southern/eastern part of the excavated area belongs to this phase. Better preserved and dating to the same phase—possibly of Cypro-Classical date—is a rectangular structure at the western part of the sanctuary. Oriented east-west, the structure encompasses in its northwest corner a circular feature (hearth or altar) constructed of large upright sherds, enclosed by a low clay rim and showing signs of extensive burning. To the north a second structure was laid bare. Oriented southwest–northeast, this roughly rectangular structure measures 3 x 5 m and features a clay-lined hearth in its southwestern corner; ceramic evidence suggests this building was used during the Cypro-Archaic II and Cypro-Classical I periods. As noted above, the difficulty in establishing a composite plan of the sanctuary’s second, main phase is exacerbated by the significant reorganization of the sanctuary at the end of the fourth century BC and, of course, by many years of indiscriminate looting.
A Hellenistic through Roman construction phase at the sanctuary originated on a hard-packed layer of earth above the Cypro-Archaic and Cypro-Classical levels and is best represented by sections of the sanctuary walls along the southern, eastern, and northern perimeter, enclosing an area that was at least 400 m2. In-situ architectural remains from this later phase comprise three long sections of the peribolos (enclosing wall) (0.60 m wide) meeting at right angles in the southeast corner of the temenos and likely the northeast (damaged) corner. Constructed of field cobbles, the peribolos includes in its matrix numerous limestone sculptural fragments (including a headless, life-size votary) of Cypro-Archaic and Cypro-Classical date. As noted above, associated with this early Hellenistic I peribolos, which likely served through the end of the sanctuary’s use, was a hard-packed layer upon which (and within which) much statuary and other artifacts of earlier date were found. Also associated with the last phase is a series of large, worked blocks of limestone in two rows which directly overlays Cypro-Archaic and Cypro-Classical strata in the western part of the sanctuary; several blocks appear to be bases for statues and thus recall similar arrangements found at other sanctuary sites such as Tamassos, Idalion, Lefkoniko, and Akhna.
Despite years of careful, systematic excavation, the sanctuary’s primary altar had remained elusive until quite recently. Large concentrations of both burnt and unburnt animal bones and elevated phosphate levels in the central part of the sanctuary seemed consistent with ritual activity associated with the preparation and use of animals for sacrifice and feasting. In 2007, a large mud-brick platform with extensive burning was partially exposed; in close proximity to the east, a bucranium (worked?) and a limestone statuette were discovered. The altar was in use during the last phase of the sanctuary’s occupation; further excavation is required to determine if this represents a continuation of use for the structure from an earlier phase.
In addition to bases for wooden posts, the discovery of an “epistyle” block, worked so as to fit the ends of two wooden roof beams—but used as a building material in the construction of the Hellenistic I peribolos—suggests that portions of the temenos were roofed. Access to the temenos must have been gained through one or more openings in the peribolos. A gap in the wall’s southern section may represent an entrance, but serious disturbance due to looter activity (with evidence of bulldozer blade claws) makes such a suggestion tentative. In a less-disturbed area, a second gap on the eastern section of the peribolos more likely served as an entrance. The discovery of a limestone wall bracket with representations of Bes, an apotropaic deity, in the immediate vicinity lends collaborative evidence to the above suggestion.
The major finds include large numbers of limestone statuary ranging in size from a few centimeters to over-life-size; Cypro-Archaic and Cypro-Classical terracotta figurines of helmeted warriors, chariots, and animals; large amounts of decorated and plain pottery (mostly Cypro-Archaic); other limestone objects (e.g., incense burners, shovels, circular disks); coins; and a few bronze and iron artifacts. Most of the limestone statuary recovered was badly damaged, sometimes by the looters but also by early Christians in late antiquity. Nonetheless, several pieces are impressive in their dimensions and/or workmanship; many betray Egyptian, Near Eastern, and East Greek influences. A few examples of female figures were found, but the overwhelming majority of the statues represent male votaries and divinities with iconography traditionally associated with Herakles, Zeus Ammon, Bes, Apollo, and Pan.
Settlement (Roman through Early Byzantine periods) Several EUs at the Malloura site contain the remains of structures associated with the establishment of a substantial rural settlement at Malloura early in the Roman period (first century BC) that continued through the Early Byzantine era. In EU 3, along the southern slope of the knoll overlooking an intermittent stream in the southeast quadrant of the site, the corner of an Early Byzantine domestic structure was exposed. There is evidence to suggest that this structure was burned in the mid-seventh century, early in the period of Arab/Byzantine conflict. Surface materials also suggest that the settlement at Malloura was abandoned at this time. Our efforts to clarify this situation were hampered by the discovery of a Venetian house and associated well overlying the Early Byzantine structure in EU 3.
Approximately 15 m to the east, in EU 5, another structure of similar construction and orientation was discovered that dates to the Roman through Early Byzantine periods. Although damaged by a late medieval pit that robbed out many of its stones, the building is rather well preserved. Associated pottery included imported African Red Slip, Phocean Red Slip, and Pompeian Red wares. As in EU 3, the pottery indicates that the settlement was abandoned in the seventh century.
Frankish–Ottoman-Period Occupations At the western edge of the settlement, the eastern portion of a well-constructed building, measuring 11.75 x 7.5 m and oriented north–south, was discovered. Excavation of the northern wall showed that the building extends westward, beyond the limits of EU 2. Aside from some fine sgraffito ware and substantial amounts of coarse ware, the most notable finds were a bronze ring and coin, iron nails and knives, a stone weight, and fragments of several terracotta smoking pipes. The pottery indicates the building was constructed during the second half of the 15th century and lasted well into the 16th century, squarely within the Venetian period. In a secondary building phase, the structure was modified by a central north–south wall with a doorway at its southern end. As evidenced by traces of a barely discernible wall running in an entirely different direction than the previous walls, a third phase of use may be ascertained, perhaps reflecting use of the building by squatters. Because of serious disturbance due to plowing, precise dating of the latter two phases is not possible. The discovery of terracotta tobacco pipes in the upper strata indicates the tertiary use must certainly fall during the (later?) Ottoman period, when the settlement significantly declined and was eventually abandoned.
In its primary use the interior of the building was divided by a series of closely spaced walls (0.40 m wide) traversing its eastern, excavated portion from west to east. The walls formed a series of channels that pass through the outer eastern wall of the building. Fragmentary slabs of gypsum (marmara) and countless scraps of decomposed wood were encountered between the cross walls but never above them. The marmara seem to have served as vertical linings of the cross walls. Interpretation of the function of the structure in EU 2 hinges on the purpose of the east–west walls and channels that seem to have been capped by wooden planks. Were the channels intended for air circulation or, more likely, to carry liquids, probably water? The structure may have been used as a granary or
perhaps for the processing of flax. Excavation of the western portion of the building, where the cross walls and channels seem to be absent, and further analysis of the finds will hopefully settle the question of the nature of this unique structure from an important, but neglected, period in the island’s history. Whichever of the two hypotheses concerning the building’s function turns out to be correct, it is clear that the structure in EU 2 was a focus of production in the settlement during the Venetian period.
In EU 3, some 180 m northeast of this industrial structure, another building was excavated that also dates to the Venetian period, this time without any Ottoman period overburden. The structure was encountered at depths no more than 30 cm below the surface and overlies the Early Byzantine structure mentioned above. The walls of the Venetian period building are badly preserved because of modern plowing, but its slab-paved floor is largely intact; the floor is traversed by a stone-lined drain running toward the intermittent stream to the south. The impressive dimensions and architectural features of this structure and its associated finds suggest this was the home of a wealthy family. Adjacent to, and likely associated with, the house is an 8.5 m deep well. Its upper part (1.2 m), cut into soil, was stone-lined and plastered with waterproof cement, while the lower part (7.3 m) was cut into bedrock; the well was found capped with a large stone slab held into position by cobbles along its edges.
In EU 6, on a small knoll halfway between these two Venetian period structures, excavations revealed portions of a thick wall that had been severely truncated by plowing and bulldozing operations in the 1960s. The (surface) discovery of a large fragmentary stone cross in close proximity, in addition to excavated opus sectile fragments, pieces of painted plaster, and two (gold) solidi (minted in Constantinople) of sixth century AD date suggest that an Early Byzantine church likely existed in the area that has not been excavated; reportedly, the bulldozing operations to level the knoll (visible in the 1963 aerial photos) encompassed in EU 6 dislodged a column fragment. Though the settlement—and presumably the church—was abandoned following the earliest Arab raids in the mid-seventh century, the presence of a Christian cemetery in the immediate vicinity of the church is not likely accidental. On either side of the wall, in an area covering approximately 25 m2, the skeletal remains of at least 57 individuals were excavated. The burials included both adults and infants, and while many were fully articulated, others were badly disturbed by later burials, the plow, or the bulldozer. Most of the burials were oriented east–west. Grave goods were sparse, comprising mostly glazed sgraffito ware goblets or bowls, usually placed in the pelvic area of the skeletons. Pieces of a hairnet and burial shroud were found with an adult female. The finds indicate these were Christian burials from the Venetian period.
For more specific information on AAP sites at Malloura, see M. Toumazou and D. Counts “Excavations at Malloura (1990–2010),” Chapter 6 in Crossroads and Boundaries, 2011 (67–86).
For more information on the nature of objects recovered from AAP sites, visit our page on major artifact types.