It is perhaps safe to say that, aside from landholding records and simple designations on early maps of Cyprus, the region of Athienou-Malloura received little or no attention from the outside scholarly world until 1862. French architect Edmond Duthoit discovered through local informants and excavated a site southwest of Athienou, refereeing to it as “Malloura” at that time. The arrival of the French “Mission de Phénicie” thus represents the earliest documented case of scientific exploration in the region. Though regrettably unpublished, the notes and plans of Duthoit and his successor Melchior de Vogüé have been supplemented by several letters that have been preserved and detail the nature and extent of the French mission’s discoveries. Sketches held by the Louvre depict numerous sculpture fragments found in the vicinity of Athienou at Golgoi, Arsos and Agios-Photios and numerous well-preserved heads in the museum’s collection attest to the sophistication of ancient artistry, as well as the nineteenth-century disinterest in collecting “less pleasing” pieces such as torsos, feet and hands.
American Consul to Cyprus, Luigi Palma di Cesnola initiated excavations near Athienou in 1870 and focused his attention on the tombs northeast of the village as well as the sanctuary site(s) of Golgoi. The murky dealings of Cesnola are well-known to students of Cypriot archaeology. His significant finds from a so-called temple (attributed to Aphrodite, though probably erroneously due to the preponderance of male votaries unearthed there) and favissa became the core antiquities collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1873. These works, some of which can be today viewed in museums elsewhere in London, Paris, Berlin, Athens and Istanbul, are among the largest and best-preserved collection of Cypro-Archaic-Hellenistic limestone sculptures from the island.
Sustained periods of systematic looting (particularly during the 1920s and 1930s) was followed by sanctioned excavations during the late 1960s and early 1970s by teams from both Israel and Greece. Giorgios Bakalakis of the University of Thessaloniki directed work at an extensive settlement site northeast of Athienou from 1969–1972. Though he revealed archaeological remains from the Late Bronze through early Christian periods, the most notable dated to the Cypro-Classical era and included fortification walls, towers, an acropolis and production/storage facilities. While Bakalakis was working on ancient Golgoi, Israeli archaeologists Trude Dothan and Amnon Ben-Tor (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) excavated at Pamboulari tis Koukounninas just north of Athienou from 1971–1972. This team uncovered remains from the 16th through 12th centuries BC including impressive architecture, locally-made pottery, imported Egyptian items and copper slag. Likely a multifunctional site encompassing both metallurgical production facilities and cultic installations, it in many ways mirrors coastal sanctuary sites such as Kition and Enkomi—the trade of each likely passing through the region en route to the copper-rich Troodos mountains.
Since the Turkish occupation of the north in 1974 most archaeological work in the area has been halted and many of the aforementioned sites remain inaccessible within the UN Buffer Zone. The Cypriot Department of Antiquities and AAP (established in 1990) are at present the only functional excavators in the Athienou vicinity.
For a more detailed account of early excavations in the area, see Counts, D. “A History of Archaeological Activity in the Athienou Region,” Chapter 4 in Crossroads and Boundaries, 2011 (45–54).