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Paphos Archaeological Park

Paphos Archaeological Park

The Tombs of the Kings are one of the most important archaeological sites in Cyprus and have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1980. These tombs form part of the vast Archaeological Park in Kato Paphos and are carved out of solid rock which date back to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The locality is named after the splendid tombs of the aristocracy that have been discovered in this location. This necropolis is two kilometers north of the Paphos harbour and the underground tombs date back to the 4th century BC. Archaeological excavations are still carried out on this important heritage site.

The tombs were first excavated in 1970 under the direction of Dr. Sophocles Hadjisavvas who was then the Director of Antiquities. Offerings amongst the burial sites include Rhodian amphorae which can be seen in the museum. Some of the tombs feature Doric columns and painted walls and in some cases looked like the houses that they inhabited. The existence of this site was known from the end of the 19th century and was unfortunately severely looted leaving some of the tombs empty of their treasures. Before the official excavations in 1970, the curator of the Paphos Museum did some clearance work as early as 1937. There are a total of eight large tomb complexes that have been uncovered. Most of the tombs have an underground rectangular atrium completely carved into the natural rock. Columns of the Doric style support the porticoes which surround the atrium. The walls of these tombs were covered in frescoes which are only partly visible today. 

You cannot visit the tombs and not see the stunning mosaics which are among the finest in the eastern Mediterranean and form part of this Archaeological Park. These were discovered in 1962 and have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1980. The House of Dionysos, Theseus, Aion and Orpheus are the villas of four Roman noblemen and they date back to the 2nd and 5th centuries AD. The fascinating mosaics depict various scenes from Greek mythology. These floor mosaics are very impressive and in some of these houses cover an area of 556 square metres. These unique mosaics are visited by thousands of tourists every year.

The Park also includes other monuments dating from prehistoric times to the middle ages. One of these is the Asklepieion which is a sanctuary dedicated to the god of medicine Asklepios. This sanctuary was uses as a nursing home and is situated south west of the ‘agora’ or marketplace. It is a large area which included several rooms and a square court. The ancient Odeon can also be found in this area. This is a small amphitheatre from the 2nd century which is still used today for musical and theatrical performances in the summer months. The Odeon is built entirely from limestone blocks and is a great example of amphitheaters built during that era. Nearby are the remains of the ancient city walls and the Roman Agora.

The Saranta Kolones (Forty Columns) castle ruins are located north of the Paphos harbor. This was a medieval fortress which had large granite columns which most probably formed part of the ancient Agora. This Byzantine caste is said to have been built at the end of the 7th century AD. This castle had a moat and a 35 meter courtyard and was built to protect Paphos city from invaders. It was inhabited until 1222 until it was destroyed by an earthquake. 

Situated in Kato Paphos near the harbour is the early Christian Basilica, Panagia Limeniotissa. Literally translated this 5th century Basilica was dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Harbour’. This impressive structure was completely destroyed in the 7th century by Arab raids. It was later restored but another disaster, an earthquake, completely destroyed the church in the 12th century. 

These archaeological treasures are all part of the vast park which are situated in and around Kato Paphos. Most of these sites are open to visitors daily and some may even charge a small entrance fee. They are definitely worth seeing with someone who can show you around and explain the rich history of the area.