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Geronisos island excavations completed
27/07/2010



The Ministry of Communications and Works, Department of Antiquities, announces that the New York University Geronisos Island Excavations, under the direction of Professor Joan Breton Connelly, has completed five weeks of work on Geronisos island, just off the coast of Agios Georgios tis Pegeias, Paphos District.

The team of 19 excavators began work on the 16th of May, opening trenches in three distinct areas: the Hellenistic food preparation/dining complex at the central south of the island, the circular structure at the north, provisionally identified as a Hellenistic dance floor and three Early Byzantine square houses at the very centre of Geronisos. Material recovered from these trenches contributes greatly to our understanding of the three most robust phases of activity on the island: the Early Chalcolithic (3800 B.C.), the Hellenistic (1st century B.C.) and the Byzantine (6th century and 13th centuries A.D.)

A well-preserved Chalcolithic ground stone chisel contributes to an already impressive corpus of stone tools recovered from the island. This material, together with previously excavated pottery, a figurine and pendants, suggests that the Chalcolithic settlement on Geronisos was a significant one.

For the Hellenistic period, great progress was made toward the understanding of architectural structures that once stood on Geronisos. A large cornice block with dentilled moulding was unearthed. It attests to the great size and grandeur of the buildings of the first century B.C. The proximity of this block to a fragment of a lion’s head waterspout found last season gives some idea of the scope and decoration of an impressive building that probably fell during the earthquake of 15 B.C. Sizable robbing trenches were uncovered along the southern edge of the island, attesting to the removal of large ashlar blocks from gypsum setting beds. This points to the extensive robbing of Geronisos for blocks of stone, probably during the Early Byzantine period. Most likely, widespread stealing of ashlar blocks provided materials for building the three Christian basilicas across the way at Agios Georgios in the 6-7th century A.D.

Architect Richard Anderson continued his work of preparing a new site plan for the entire island, using a total station laser theodolite. He was assisted by graduate student Charles Bartlett of New York University and Kathryn Minogue of Columbia University. The ongoing erosion of the cliff edges makes the survey and mapping of Geronisos all the more urgent. The production of a new and accurate map of the island’s topography and built structures is a primary goal of the expedition’s work.

Trenches opened near the Byzantine houses at the centre of the island yielded important finds. A small bronze handle attachment decorated with the head and shoulders of a bearded man were recovered. This may belong to an early Byzantine jug. Many fragments of sgrafitto ware ceramics showing white, green and yellow-brown glaze were also unearthed here. These could be mended into a nearly complete footed bowl. This find, together with two other sgrafitto ware bowls found in previous seasons, give tantalizing evidence for a significant 13th century occupation of Geronisos, one that is further attested by 15th century maps that show a church at the east end of the island.

A number of eminent scholars participated in the 2010 season on Geronisos, preparing the publication of material excavated over the past decade. Dr Jolanta Mlynarczyk of the University of Warsaw continued her study of the Hellenistic ceramics, while Dr Mariusz Burdajewicz of the Warsaw Museum worked on his publication of the glass finds and prepared drawings of pottery and architecture. Incoming Fulbright Fellow to Cyprus Victoria Grinbaum of University College London and the University of Warsaw, continued her study of the Geronisos amphorae. Dr Paul Croft of the Lemba Archaeological Field Station excavated worked on his study of the animal bones from Geronisos, and taught in the New York University Geronisos Field School. Professor Zoe Kontes of Kenyon University gave seminars to the students participating in the Field School.

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