Oldest Theater in Cyprus Found

November 6, 2015

An Australian team has uncovered the oldest theatre in Cyprus: a structure that was used as a venue for performance and spectacle for over six and a half centuries from c. 300 BC until its final destruction in the earthquakes of AD 365.

The Australian Archaeological Mission from the University of Sydney discovered the site of the Hellenistic-Roman theatre of Nea Pafos.

The Australian team has been excavating at the UNESCO World Heritage for two decades. In September 2015 the team conducted a geo-mapping survey of the ruins of the town’s Roman colonnades.

Excavations immediately to the south of the theatre by the Australian Mission revealed a Roman paved road, approximately 8.40 metres wide, which was the main traffic thoroughfare to access the theatre and the nymphaeum.

The team speculates that this road near the theatre represented a major internal thoroughfare for the Roman Nea Pafos, leading to the nearby unexcavated North-East city gate.

The existence of this road also confirms that ancient Nea Paphos was laid out on a typical Hellenistic grid plan.

It can now be suggested that a colonnaded road ran from the harbour of Paphos along a north-south axis, and that the paved road at the theatre was likewise colonnaded and represented the major east-west thoroughfare of Roman Nea Pafos running from the ancient city gate across to the archaeological park.

It is hoped that future targeted excavation of the road south of the theatre may reveal more of the granite columns, hopefully in situ, which will give an indication as to the spacing of the colonnade.

The survey of Troad granite columns has revealed that those used in Nea Pafos fall into three main categories of size; a smaller series found mainly at the theatre, a middle type with a height equivalent to 16 Roman feet (around 4.6 metres) and the largest, but least common, type that stood at 24 Roman feet (over 7 metres).

2014 Archaeological Excavations at Nea Paphos
2014 Archaeological Excavations at Nea Paphos

Although this survey has provided an overall impression of the location of the colonnades, many questions still remain such as the appearance of the street façade and the date that the colonnades were erected, although it seems likely to have been in the 2nd century AD.

In addition to the colonnade survey, the ancient theatre was recorded for the first time using pole photography and photogrammetric programs which stitched together over two thousands individual high resolution photos.

This orthographically correct 3D image of the ancient theatre and surrounding areas of Fabrika created by the pole photography project will assist with planning future excavation areas and understanding the urban layout of the town in the area around the ancient theatre.

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