Included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO since 1980, the archaeological site of Palepaphos and its museum certainly worth a visit.
The ancient town of Palepaphos is within the limits of the modern village of Kouklia, 16 kilometres east of the modern town of Paphos. The archaeological investigation that took place in 1950-55 by the British Archaeological Mission brought to light many finds that prove that the area has been inhabited continuously for nearly 5,000 years - from the Late Chalcolithic Period (approximately in 2800 BC) till the present day.
Paphos had been a kingdom in Ancient Cyprus until the 4th century B.C. It used to be prosperous not only thanks to soil fertility but also because of the Temple of Aphrodite that turned Palepaphos and the surrounding area into a centre for worship. The worship of the Goddess seems to have lasted from 1200 B.C. till the end of 4th century A.C., making the temple of Palepaphos one of the most prolonged sanctuaries in Cyprus. According to Hesiod, Aphrodite rose from the foam of the sea, a few kilometres northwest of Palepaphos. Based on Pausanias’ accounts, the Temple of Aphrodite was built by the Arcadian king of Tegea, Agapinoras, who was dragged out to the coast in Cyprus on his return from Troy.
Another myth attributes the founding of the temple to the renowned Cypriot king Kinyras, the father of Adones. The first historically recorded king of Palepaphos was Eteandros. On inscriptions in the Cypriot syllabary, the leader of Palepaphos was referred to as “King of Paphos and Priest of Anassa”. This means that the king of the town was also the priest of the goddess, which allowed him to exert a great influence on the island. Nikokles, the last king, founded the city and port of Nea Paphos and established it as the new capital ca 320 B.C. After the founding of Nea Paphos, the old city was renamed Palepaphos. Then from a regional centre of the southwest Cyprus, Palepaphos assumed thecharacter of a sacred city.
The temple was rebuilt in the Roman period and many private residences were erected in the area. A second reconstruction took place in late 1st or early 2nd century, however, the spread of Christianity did not favour the parallel worship of Aphrodite. The cult gradually waned until Emperor Theodosius I outlawed all pagan religions in 391 A.D. In the 12th century, the habitation in the area changed. Palepaphos, which had been renamed Kouvouklia, flourished again, mainly thanks to the sugar industry. In 1571, it had fallen into Ottomans hands, and in the 19th century the town finally declined.
In September 1980, Palepaphos and Nea Paphos were added to the list of the UNESCO Monuments of World Heritage. The archaeological site of Palepaphos consists of many important monuments from all eras of the city’s long history:
The remains of the Temple of Aphrodite from the Late Bronze Age and the remains from the Roman Perion. The open court (temenos) was surrounded by arcades and in the centre, it housed a conical baetyl which symbolised the power of the Great Goddess. The baetyl was kept in the Roman shrine too.
The Defensive Wall, the Northeast Gate and the Palace of Haji Abdullah. The first wall and gate buildings were erected around the second half of the 8th century B.C. Following numerous reconstructions, the wall finally fell into disuse soon after 300 B.C. The construction of the gate is complex and notable. The palace was an imposing public building. It was built in the 6th century or early 5th century B.C., and collapsed in late 4th century B.C. According to the excavators, the building must have been an administrative centre, the headquarters of the Governor of Palepaphos.
The House of Leda. The Roman house, dating back to the 2 nd century A.D., is covered with an outstanding mosaic floor dated that depicts the mythological scene of Leda and the Swan.
The Church of Panagia Katholiki. The church, west to the Temple of Aphrodite, was built around the 12th or 13th century A.D. It follows the type of a cruciform church and it was probably the community church of the village of Kouklia. The surviving wall-paintings which decorate the interior of the church, reflect the traditional popular art of the 15th century.
The Necropolises. The area of Palepaphos accommodates numerous important cemeteries, dating from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Christian period.
The Medieval Sugar Mill. As a part of the industrial installations for the processing of sugar- cane, you can see the four sectors for the processing of sugar-cane production: milling, boiling and refining, firing and stoking, storing and workshops. The use of the Sugar Mill dates from the late 13th till the late 16th century A.C.
The Medieval Manor House. Built by the Lusignan kings in the 13th century, the Manor House was the centre of local administration and the headquarters of the local official who directed and controlled the sugar production. After Ottoman occupation in 1571, the Manor served as the centre of administration for the Kouklia Ottoman chiflik. The Gothic hall in the east wing is considered to be one of the finest surviving monuments of Frankish profane architecture on the island. The east wing now functions as the Local Archaeological Museum.
The Archaeological Museum in Kouklia consists of two rooms that present finds from the archaeological site of the ancient town of Palepaphos. The first room houses the conical stone that served as the cult icon of the honoured goddess. Another worth noting find on display is also a clay bath that dates back to the Late Bronze Age.
The second room displays finds from the cemeteries dating from the 2nd millennium B.C. until the Roman times. Examples are stone tools, bronze objects, pottery, jewels, inscriptions and statues.
The last section of the room is dedicated to finds from Byzantine, Medieval and more recent times like local glazed pottery, pottery used for the production of sugar, as well as two Venetian cannons.
The entry ticket to the museum includes the entry to the archaeological site and costs €4,50. The opening hours are Monday-Sunday from 8:30-17:00 during Winter time and Monday-Sunday from 8:30-19:30 during Summer time – please note that hours might differ.
The museum is non wheelchair accessible. The contact phone number is 26432155.