A team of archaeologists from a Texas theological seminary and the University of Cyprus await be able to reveal the daily life of the first Christians who lived in Cyprus thanks to a new excavation in Kourion (Curium), an ancient city that was destroyed by a series of earthquakes around the year 365.
The team leader, Professor Thomas Davis, hopes that the excavations reveal the existence of the island's first "house-church". It would be a private home where the first believers met to pray, since fear the fear of persecution prevented them from building churches. «We are trying to investigate the life of ordinary people, something that has not actually been studied in Cypriot archeology «, He comments.
Archaeologists believe that up to 10,000 people came to live in Kourion. The city is located in an area steeped in history, especially Roman. Its famous remains include a great theater, a market, public baths, and mosaics. Nearby is the Sanctuary of Apollo Ylatis.
After three days of excavations approximately 20 centimeters deep, the team has discovered what could be the wall of a house. But the intentions of Davis and his team are to go up to two meters deep: «At present we have opened an area of 27 square meters, which will be expanded to about 70 square meters. We have found what we think could be the wall of a house. It's glued together, which means it's not exclusively utilitarian. The wall has been smoothed out nicely, let's see with more research”.
Davis also states that before the earthquakes between 365 and 370 AD, pagan temples in Kourion were still active and there were no Christian churches. Although the history of Christianity in Cyprus dates back to the historic visit of Saint Paul and Barnabas around A.D. 45 and the proconsul Paphos would become the first official Roman governor to embrace the religion, the spread of Christianity in Cyprus was quite patchy at first.
The researcher thinks that the earthquakes caused a change in that mentality: «This change is evident in the lives of ordinary people. In the rubble of the earthquake 25 years ago, a Christian ring with a Chi-Rho symbol, the monogram of Christ, was found. We have also found Christian lamps. These people were partially pagan and some were Christians”.
The professor points out that the Kato Paphos mosaics are “beautiful and well known”, But adds that his team is looking for the remains of people who lived normal lives: «We are not trying to find evidence from the elite, but from people like us. People who were trying to get ahead and were affected by the 365 earthquake. We're trying to capture that moment and see what it was like. It was an important moment in time”.
The research team has already found fragments of Tessera (mosaic pieces), a considerable quantity of ceramics, some glass and base stones. However, they have not yet been able to locate any metal items. The ceramic fits with the type of windows that were used during earthquakes, so may belong to a period of time from the 3rd to the 5th century. The tests that would make it possible to have accurate data on the time of the remains, would be the coins of the time, but they have not found any.
Davis also hopes to find glass and metal artifacts, as well as lamps, pictures, ceramic plates, storage jars and kitchen utensils used in everyday life: «We want to find more of these kinds of things to see the change and discover these families: who they are and how they expressed their new faith. We want to see how Christianity began to grow and expand”.
The professor was hired by the Department of Antiquities last year to carry out the current excavation and was granted a permit by the government for the specific area of the excavation.
Trey thames, a member of the Davis archaeological team and PhD student, explains the steps that are taken for an excavation site: «First we have to clear the ground of all bushes and weeds so that the surface is clearly visible. This helps us to do a visual inspection. Then we mark our grid area and start digging about 10 centimeters or so down.”.
The student continues: “We began to dig and remove the earth little by little. Once we get to an area where we think we are going to find something, we stop using the big shovels and start using the hand shovels. You have to go very slowly and clean for small objects that can get lost when you are removing dirt. It's exciting”.
Sometimes they also use a flat mason trowel with a sharp edge, which allows archaeologists to follow a surface by feeling it. This is especially useful in bright sunlight, as the equipment in Cyprus is exposed to, which makes it difficult to see clearly.
Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was little he loved History and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.