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28 February 2009
Triangular temple unearthed in Cyprus

A triangular building dating back from the Bronze Age has been discovered last year by Italian archaeologists digging in the Pyrgos archaeological area (Cyprus). This unique construction consists of two rooms arranged in a triangular area and was probably destroyed by an earthquake and abandoned around 1800 BCE. The building seems destined for cult due to the presence of an altar, flanked by a channel on two sides. The religious use of the building is confirmed by the materials found, including 4 calcarenite horns of different sizes, a number of animal bones - mainly fragments of heads of bull and rams and tens of shaped shells.
     Of historical interest is the evidence concerning the presence of the altar with the channel on its side for the collection and disposal of sacrificial liquids. Moreover the unique triangular shape of the complex seems to be an enlarged replica of a smaller triangular construction located in the middle of the longest side of the main building. This smaller element could belong to the first phase of the temple, in the Early Bronze Age, as its foundations run deeper than the outer walls. A large hole encircled by a double line of stones in the middle of the smaller triangular construction was probably the original location of the pithos jar found in fragments around the altar. Fragments of a second pithos jar were unearthed on the southern side of the altar. Meanwhile a fragmentary four legged Red Polished bowl of rare shape was found on the channel nearby the door passage.
     In the final phase of reorganization of the complex, the largest room of the temple was separated from the adjoining room by a dividing wall overlapping a filling of earth. The Northern side of this room keeps intact the lying of the collapse of structures at the time of the earthquake. On the side of its west wall there was a small rectangular window. This remember a clay model of Arkanes, dating back to the second millennium BCE, but this opening still does not seem to have any connection to a specific cult function.
     The findigs from the adjoining room are very different. Some bowls from the Middle Bronze Age and a jug were placed near the passage between a roofed and an open-air section. The bones of oxen and goats in addition to many shells of various shapes probably used as pendants or cloth decorations, were found mainly in the open-air area. A bronze needle, a pair of bronze Philia type earrings characteristic of Early Bronze Age, found in the deepest levels, suggest that the building is one of the most ancient of the settlement.
     It should be noted that the excavation of 2008 has confirmed one of the most interesting aspect of Pyrgos/Mavroraki architecture: the orientation of the main building of the site, which is the same of the triangular building unearthed in 2008. In fact, the 'palace' of Pyrgos/Mavroraki shows an intentional orientation of its main and secondary walls. Although the structure of the walls is typical of the dwellings of the Early and Middle Bronze Age Cyprus, there is a meticulous care in maintaining the complex within the boundaries of an architectural model, this provides very specific rules for both the erection of walls in inside rooms and spaces.
     It seems that the area was divided into sectors of almost equal dimensions - this means that each room had roughly the same size. Also the position of the temple complex was crefully selected, as it faces the area where the metallurgical activities took place. This peculiarity confirms the intended use of the building and anticipates of several centuries the Cypriot religious tradition that linked places of worship to the production of copper, and invoked the divine protection on metals production.

Source: Pyrgos/Mavroraki 2008 Excavation Report (27 February 2009)

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