Wednesday, December 18, 2019


Anna Cannavò​, Sabine Fourrier, Alexandre Rabot, Kition-Bamboula VII. Fouilles dans les nécropoles de Kition (2012-2014). Travaux de la maison de l'Orient, 75​. Lyon: MOM Éditions​, 2018. Pp. 408. ISBN 9782356680617. €56,00.

Reviewed by Adriano Orsingher, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen​ (

Version at BMCR home site

Open edition

This new volume in the series of the French Mission of Kition-Bamboula, the third during the past fifteen years, has recently been published, while the next in the series, on the shipsheds of the military harbor, is already in preparation.1 The volume under review is primarily devoted to the final report of a three-year excavation project in the necropolis of Pervolia, to the north-west of the ancient site. This fieldwork is part of a research program on the urban topography of Kition in the Iron Age, which aims at filling topographical, chronological and typological gaps in knowledge of the ancient city by collecting unpublished data from previous investigations (thanks to collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus), entering them into GIS (more than 450 tombs were listed in 2016), and undertaking targeted excavations using a multidisciplinary approach.

As indicated in the foreword (pp. 9-16), which contains some remarks on how tombs were registered and finds were catalogued, the book is divided into two unequal parts. The first voluminous section deals with the burial ground of Pervolia and includes both the tombs excavated by the Department of Antiquities before 2012 and those discovered by the French team during 2012-2014. The second part concerns the cemetery of Tourapi, where building works led to rescue excavations by the Department of Antiquities.

Part one is divided into four chapters. An introduction (pp. 17-22) by the main authors locates the cemetery of Pervolia and gives an overview of the history of discoveries and excavations there before 2012. They include a GIS-based map showing the position of all the burial grounds and three plans of the Pervolia tombs drawn over details of low-resolution images (i.e., a satellite view and two historical aerial photos). A map of Larnaca would have helped the reader in locating the cemeteries within the modern-day urban area, especially as modern street names are often mentioned. The few surviving funerary assemblages excavated before 2012 — others, which were stored in the castle of Larnaca, disappeared between 1964 and 1974 — are presented in chapter 1 (pp. 23-43): Anna Georgiadou describes two Cypro-Geometric II-III tombs (ca. 950-750 BC), while Anna Cannavò and Sabine Fourrier discuss three of the Cypro-Classical I period (ca. 480-400 BC).

Chapter 2 (pp. 45-284) — by the three principle authors in collaboration with Nathalia Denninger for the small finds, Nathalie Delhopital and Prisca Vareilles for the human remains, Armelle Gardeisen, Fabien Belhaoues and Lluis Garcia Petit for the faunal remains — represents the bulk of the book and contains the very detailed presentation of the results of the three annual excavation campaigns. For the first time, programmed investigations were undertaken without undue time pressure at the cemeteries of Kition, which have usually been explored during rescue excavations, with work often limited to the burial chambers and allowing only general anthropological observations. In these pages, 13 tombs (T. 378-381, 396- 403, 407, two of them unexcavated), two isolated niches, three circular pits and four depressions are presented, providing a remarkable wealth of data, including an exhaustive catalogue of the finds, discussion of the faunal and human remains, numerous color photos of architecture and finds, drawings, plans and sections, and even the 3D reconstruction of a tomb chamber (figs. 163-165). This section testifies to an exemplary method of excavation, documentation and publication, though one might wish for more drawings of the artefacts, especially of the small finds (which are often reproduced only in small photos), and for a section in drawings of all of the vessels (absent in figs. 49:KEF-1243; 92:KEF-1286, KEF-1287; and 180:KEF-1409).

In these rock-cut tombs — most of them dating to the 5th-4th centuries BC — a stepped dromos led through a stomion, originally closed by a gypsum slab and small stones, to a rectangular chamber. Remarkable cases are: 1) the deposition of a goose in tomb 379 (pp. 71-73, fig. 33);2 2) the horse sacrifice in tomb 407 (pp. 240, 244-245, figs. 206-209); and 3) the high number of individuals in tombs 379 (14 skeletons), 396 (24 skeletons) and 398 (13 skeletons). As Cypriot chamber tombs are sometimes characterized as family graves, it would be interesting to investigate through DNA analysis the possibility of family links among the people buried in each of these three tombs.

Chapter 3 (pp. 285-301) comprises studies devoted to the main categories of artefacts found in this area. The pottery and the terracottas are analysed by Fourrier, a leading expert in both these fields. She starts by emphasizing the Phoenicianising character of the ceramic repertoire of Kition from the 8th century BC onwards: new manufacturing techniques (e.g., burnishing of external surfaces, string-cut bases), decorative schemes (e.g., reserved areas), and shapes (e.g., trefoil-rim and mushroom-lip jugs, handleless bowls and plates) were adopted, pointing to changes in the gestures and positions of the users and, consequently, a transformation in the mode of consumption. Close dependence on external models accounts for the traditional difficulty of archaeologists in distinguishing between imports and local versions of Levantine pottery types. Fourrier's analysis of the ceramic repertoire is divided into two chronological horizons ("archaic" and "classical"), summarizing the main features of each. It is of note that the presence of three red slip Assyrian(izing?) bottles (figs. 130:KEF-1407, 137:K14-94, K14-500) was not recognised.3 Six fragments of clay figurines, found in the fill of dromoi, mirror the very rare deposition of these artefacts in the cemeteries of Kition, in contrast to practices known from the burial grounds of other Cypriot cities (e.g., Salamis, Amathus and Marion). The small finds (studied by Denninger and Fourrier) consist largely of jewelry (i.e., necklaces, beads, amulets, scarab, scaraboids, bracelets, earrings, rings), along with lamps, incense-burners, and stone and faience vessels.

Finally, Evangeline Markou, a prominent scholar of ancient numismatics, examines the only two coins from this area: a bronze hemiobol of Tyre minted under Ptolemy II (ca. 261-240 BC) and a bronze coin of Constantinople of Constantius Gallus (ca. 351-354 AD), attesting sporadic visits in later times.

Chapter 4 (pp. 303-310) presents the results of pollen studies by Rémi Corbineau and charcoal and wood specimen analysis by Maria Socratous. Palynological analysis identified plant remains contained in some ceramic containers, niches dug in the walls of dromoi and other structures. Charcoal and wooden fragments attest to the availability of olive trees during the period when the necropolis was in use and document the presence of a coffin/box made of pinewood. The authors admit, however, that the hypothesis of a deliberate use of plant material in relation to mortuary practices needs to be supported by further data.

A list of loci, Statigraphic Units (US) and concordances of inventory numbers (pp. 311-334) follows. Loci and finds are associated with QR Codes intended to allow access to the entire dataset available in the online archive of the French mission, but these links were not working at the time of the present review (17/08/2019).

The second part of the volume by Anna Satraki, Cannavò and Fourrier presents the results of excavations undertaken in 2012 by the Department of Antiquities in Tourapi, a burial ground to the west of the ancient settlement. Again, it starts with a short introduction (pp. 337-338), where the differences between this necropolis and that at Pervolia are pointed out. The Tourapi site remained in use for a longer period, from the Cypro-Geometric to the Roman age, with some tombs even reoccupied in later times. Additionally, there is evidence for the existence of gypsum sarcophagi and stone markers. Very similar types of grave goods, however, testify to the burial of people of the same social level.

Chapter 1 (pp. 339-342) presents the history of the toponym "Tourapi" (replaced nowadays by "Drosia") and of previous investigations in this cemetery, also explaining the circumstances that led to the rescue excavations of 10 tombs in 2012.

Chapter 2 (pp. 343-373) corresponds to the catalogue of the tombs. None of them could be completely excavated. With four exceptions (two Cypro-Archaic and two of the 2nd-3rd century AD), the tombs were used during the Cypro-Classical period.

In the conclusions to the volume as a whole (pp. 375-387), the three authors provide an overview of the cemeteries of Kition (primarily based on the data from the French excavations in the Pervolia necropolis). They have accomplished the goals announced at the beginning of the volume (p. 9): studying the mode of implantation of the tombs, their spatial distribution and boundaries, any change over time or difference in the social status of the deceased, the modes of circulation, access, and signaling (possible funerary markers), but also understanding the cycle of use of the tombs, from construction to final closure, and the mode of deposition of the deceased.

A bibliography (pp. 389-397) and a list of tables and illustrations (pp. 399-407) end the volume.

The recent publication of two other excavation reports on the cemeteries of Kition4 makes it easy to identify the positive aspects of this volume — at least for part 1, on Pervolia — in its multidisciplinary approach and the collection of data from the usually unexplored dromoi and other features. They result in the very high quality and fresh evidence provided in this volume. An interesting example is the niches in the upper part of the walls of dromoi. Finds there (if present) include miniature vessels and ornaments (metal bracelets, beads and amulets) that are often (but not exclusively) found in rooms associated with children. The authors tentatively suggest that these niches and their contents may have been intended to evoke those children that, due to their perinatal age, were possibly excluded from the family chamber.

In a time of escalating discussion among archaeologists concerning the necessity of fully releasing all recorded data,5 the attention of the French Mission of Kition to Open Data is worth mentioning. In order to understand the quality of this project, it is necessary to consider all its features: 1) the quick online publication of preliminary reports;6 2) a website providing access to the entire dataset collected during the excavation;7 3) on-line access to the GIS data;8 and, finally, 4) this book. The very short time between excavation and final publication deserves commendation, and the fact that this study is already free, digital, and searchable is icing on the cake. However, the problem with the QR Codes mentioned above underlines the need to consider the issue of the long-term digital preservation of data (and of the links to the webpages).

Overall, this volume is a model of publication and it will be especially important for the archaeology of Cyprus, as tombs are still the most numerous sources of our knowledge of the Iron Age on the island. On the Open Data side, it is to be hoped that this approach will be widely adopted and improved by other archaeological expeditions working on the island and abroad.


1.   Harvard Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications.
2.   This case has already been studied in detail: A. Gardeisen et al., "L'oiseau et les enfants: à propos d'une pratique funéraire inédite de Kition", Cahiers du Centre d'Études Chypriotes 44 (2014): 299-322.
3.   For parallels, see S. Anastasio, Atlas of the Assyrian pottery of the Iron Age (Subartu 24), (Turnhout 2010): 50, 52, type BT_13, pl. 31:8.
4.   A. Orsingher, "Kition, tombs and Phoenician narratives. Review article", Sardinia, Corsica et Baleares antiquae 15 (2017): 89-98.
5.   E.g., N. Marchetti et al., "NEARCHOS. Networked Archaeological Open Science: Advances in Archaeology Through Field Analytics and Scientific Community Sharing", Journal of Archaeological Research 26 (2018): 447-469.
6.   Kition-Pervolia - 2012, Kition-Pervolia - 2013, Kition-Pervolia - 2014
7.   French Mission of Kition - website
8.   French Mission of Kition - GIS

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