The primary objective of the Rantidi Forest Excavations (RFE) is the investigation of the sanctuary complex at the site of Lingrin tou Dhigeni, located in the Rantidi Forest. The Rantidi Forest forms the eastern boundary of the ancient city king of Paphos, where Homer locates the altar and temple of Aphrodite. One of our principal research questions is the ancient context of the Cypro-Syllabic writing system, a script used almost exclusively on the island of Cyprus. Specifically, we sought to understand the circumstances under which syllabic symbols would be placed upon stone, and the social, cultural, and/or ritual meaning these marks held. Ancient Paphos has produced the largest collections of syllabic inscriptions within Cyprus. Although statistically, the inscriptions preserved in the siege mound thrown against the walls of nearby anicent Paphos are more numerous than those found in the sanctuary in the Rantidi Forest, those of the siege-mound are ex-situ, having been ripped out of their original context to anchor the Persian siege works. As the majority of the syllabic inscriptions of the sanctuary complex in the Rantidi Forest were found in situ, the Rantidi Forest material provides by far the best evidence in which to observe the use of syllabic writing in its original, ritual context.
Investigation was extended far beyond the original goal of the sanctuary site itself as the RFE was requested to survey the entire plain of Kapsalia in preparation for the development of this area for the Aphrodite Hills Resort and Golf complex. This provided an excellent opportunity for the study of an ancient Cypriote sanctuary in its regional context. Special attention was paid to the landscape and its use over time.
The Rantidi Forest Excavations, under the direction of Dr. Georgia Bonny Bazemore, is a multi-site, diachronic, areal examination of a discrete geographic unit, the elevated plain of Kapsalia and the associated foothills of the Troodos Mountains. Collectively, today, this is known as the Rantidi Forest. The Rantidi Forest Excavations began in 1996 with the mandate to survey this area in preparation for the construction of the Aphrodite Hills resort and Golf Club. Although accessed by an isolated track today, we have determined that the road into and through the Kapsalia plain constituted the main east-west thoroughfare from the beginning of Cypriote history until the use of dynamite in the early 20th century created the coastal road used today.
All of the sites discovered and documented by the Rantidi Forest Excavations are major settlements of their period. A large Chalcolithic village sits atop the spine of a long range of hills to the north of Lingrin tou Dhigeni. The large number of worked stone tools and blades as well as evidence for quarrying indicate that this site produced stone tools for trade and export to other sites both within the island as well as the nearby mainland of the Levant.
The initial objective of the Rantidi Forest Excavations was the hilltop sanctuary found at Lingrin tou Dhigeni. This site is called "The playing stones of Diogenes" because of the vast number of worked stone from the collapsed walls of the temple buildings. Thousands of pieces of life-sized and over life-sized pieces of terra cotta statue have been found here, as well as the largest number of inscriptions written in the peculiar script of Cyprus, the so-called Cypro-Syllabic script. The Rantidi Forest Excavations has discovered almost fifty new inscriptions in this peculiar and arcane writing system. The site of Lingrin tou Dhigeni was in use, with some interruptions, throughout the first millennium B.C. There are more than 400 tombs which surround this sanctuary, which was the home of the god of Death and Resurrection, known by the Greeks as Adonis.
Dating from the Late Roman Period are two industrial complexes, full of a wide variety of stone tools and at least three varieties of large storage vessels. At least one building associated with these materials had ceramic roof tiles.
On each end of the Kapsalia plain are settlements from the Medieval period associated closely with the events of the 2nd and 3rd Crusades. We have found a large amount of medieval fine ware pottery, the so-called S-graffito ware, as well as a building from that time.
Finally, the Rantidi Forest was home to a large Hani or rest stop on the old carriage road. The Hani at Rantidi was also a working farm, with the largest plaqued threshing floor yet documented for south Cyprus, as well as a Havousa, or underground water tank, or dang.
The Rantidi Forest Excavations have uncovered and collected tens of thousands of artifacts from these sites, and is in the process of cataloging them in preparation for publication.
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