Threatened Cypriot archaeological site to be investigated by University of Leicester archaeologists

Posted by ap507 at Sep 02, 2015 01:25 PM |
Historic Roman/Byzantine site on Cyprus shoreline suffering from wave erosion

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 2 September 2015

Contact pressoffice@le.ac.uk to request images.

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester are in a race against time to uncover the heritage of a threatened 1,500-year-old site on a Cyprus shoreline.

Between 9-23 September an expert team, from the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, will conduct a small-scale archaeological excavation at Dreamer’s Bay, inside the UK’s Cyprus airbase, RAF Akrotiri.

This site, a late Roman/early Byzantine harbour complex, is a significant part of the heritage of the Akrotiri Peninsula, and has been known about for some decades but not adequately explored and documented.

The archaeological project is being led by the University of Leicester School of Archaeology & Ancient History in close collaboration with a range of other partners, stakeholders and authorities.

Simon James, Professor of Archaeology at Leicester, said: “We aim to conduct a rescue excavation on wave-threatened heritage remains along the shoreline, in the form of a series of simple masonry buildings, probably warehouses, which appear to belong to the port which existed here in late Roman/early Byzantine times, probably between AD 300 and 600. These structures are being rapidly eroded by the sea during winter storms. Their exploration and recording has been identified as a priority by the environment team of the UK’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation which is responsible for looking after the land on which RAF Akrotiri stands. The work is also being conducted with the agreement of the Republic of Cyprus Department of Antiquities.

“The September exercise will act as a pilot for a proposed larger scale and longer term research programme on the archaeology of the peninsula: the Ancient Akrotiri Project. It will be led by the University of Leicester School of Archaeology & Ancient History, in close collaboration with a range of other partners, stakeholders and authorities. These already include, DIO, SBAA, and British Forces Cyprus, plus the Department of Antiquities and the Western Sovereign Base Area Archaeological Society.

“Our excavation will also provide an opportunity for further reconnaissance of the archaeology of the peninsula and for discussions regarding future fieldwork plans, at Dreamer’s Bay and we hope other sites, on a larger scale.”

Professor James added that the aim of the initiative was for it to be more than an academic research project. He said: “Our wider mission as an educational institution includes heritage preservation and communication, outreach, widening participation and public engagement in archaeology. In this connection an important objective of the September season is to form a picture of the current state of knowledge and attitudes regarding the local archaeological heritage among the community that lives on the base. I am already in contact with local schools, and we hope to conduct a questionnaire survey of public attitudes to the heritage among the base community at RAF Akrotiri during our stay.

“We further very much hope that any future work at Akrotiri will also involve an extension of our longstanding collaboration with the award-winning OPERATION NIGHTINGALE, a scheme run by the Defence Archaeological Group to help wounded, injured and sick UK Service personnel and veterans to recover by engaging them in archaeological fieldwork.”

The September work is being funded by a small research development grant from the University of Leicester, and would not be possible without logistic and other support kindly provided by DIO, UK Armed Forces and WSBAAS. The University team will comprise six staff, including several professional field archaeologists from its in-house commercial unit, University of Leicester Archaeological Services.

Mr Philip Abramson, from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, said: “Dreamer’s Bay is one of the most impressive archaeological sites on RAF Akrotiri and as an Archaeology Advisor for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation I am all too aware that it is being eroded by the wind, the rain and the sea. I am indebted to the military, civilian and administrative colleagues for their co-operation in enabling the project to go-ahead and I am grateful to the team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester who will be investigating the origins and use of this ancient site”.

Ends

NOTES TO NEWSDESK

Project website:  https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/archaeology/research/ancient-akrotiri/ancient-akrotiri-project-cyprus

ULAS website: http://www.le.ac.uk/ulas/

Operation Nightingale and Defence Archaeology Group: http://www.daguk.org/

For interviews contact:  Professor Simon James or stj3@le.ac.uk

Image caption: foundations of one of a number of late Roman or early Byzantine harbour buildings exposed by winter storm wave action at Dreamer’s Bay, Akrotiri. [IMG5202 © Prof Simon James, University of Leicester]

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