The meat of sacrificial animals was probably eaten there, and certainly, wine was drunk in honour of the gods – archaeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old outdoor sacred banqueting site carved into the bedrock at Nea Paphos in Cyprus. This is the first site of its kind unearthed in Cyprus.
Since 2017, a team of archaeologists from Poland and France has been studying the southern part of the Fabrika hill in the area of the ancient city of Nea Paphos. It was an area with a sacred character. The discovery of the site of ancient banquets in honour of the gods occurred right next to the highest point of the hill, where the remains of an ancient temple are located. These are outlines carved in the rock – its walls have not survived to our times. The temple building, similar in outline to a square, was preceded by a courtyard on a rock platform, in front of which, a few meters away, there was a monumental altar, also carved from the rock. Therefore, the body of the building did not resemble typical Greek temples flanked by soaring columns.
According to the head of the research, Prof. Jolanta Młynarczyk from the Archaeology Department of the University of Warsaw, the ramp leading from the temple was adjacent to a bench carved in the rock.
“It was an open-air sacred banqueting place whose distinctive semicircular outline is referred to in archaeology as a stibadium. Its central point was a circular pit with a drain, used for libations in honour of the deity – says the researcher.
She adds that similar devices are known from Nabatean Petra (the Nabatean kingdom existed in the last centuries of the first millennium BC and the first century AD) in southern Jordan, where they accompanied both tombs and traditional cult sites.
According to researchers, the temple and the place of drinking functioned simultaneously at the same time – between the 2nd century BC and the middle of the 2nd century AD. The foundation probably came to an end with the earthquake around 150 AD, after which the place of worship may have been moved closer to the representative city centre.
The ancient city of Nea Paphos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Cyprus. It was founded in the southwestern part of the island at the end of the fourth century BC. During the Hellenistic period, it belonged to the Egyptian kingdom of the Ptolemies, after which it came under Roman rule. From about 200 BC to about 350 AD, Nea Paphos served as the capital of the island.
Polish excavations initiated by the archaeologist Prof. Kazimierz Michałowski in Nea Pafos, a site included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, have been going on for 56 years. There are Polish missions from Warsaw University and Jagiellonian University in cooperation with other Polish and foreign institutions.