The history and culture of Cyprus is among the oldest in the world. The first signs of civilization traced in archaeological excavations and research date back 9,000 years to the 7th millennium BC. This rich cultural landscape involves hundreds of archaeological sites scattered throughout the island, representing various historical periods in the island's evolution.
The discovery of copper in Cyprus in the 3rd millennium BC brought wealth to the island and attracted trade from its trading neighbors. Yet, although geographically placed at the crossroads of three continents Europe, Asia and Africa and a meeting point of great world civilizations, Cyprus has developed and for centuries maintained, its own civilization. It remained a center of Greek culture with Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, French, Venetian, Ottoman and British influences.
The Cyprus Department of Antiquities is tasked with the operation, maintenance, protection and preservation of the rich archaeological heritage of the island. Its activities comprise such areas as excavation and conservation of artifacts, the preservation of ancient monuments, the protection of ethnological and ecclesiastical art, the restoration of buildings of traditional architecture etc. The final goal of all these activities is the presentation of the island's unique cultural property.
Relevant to the excavations and complementary to them is the task of maintenance and protection of ancient monuments and antiquities in general. This includes reconstruction and/or maintenance of ancient theatres, sanctuaries, castles, churches and other monuments of every nature as well as movable antiquities, metallurgy, handicraft, icons, items of religious and popular art dating back to Neolithic Times and up to 1940 A.D. Maintenance of Mosaics and frescoes is also included.
The Cyprus Museum in Nicosia houses the richest and most representative collection of Cypriot antiquities in Cyprus. In its exhibition rooms one may see some of the most important pieces of Cypriot art and get a comprehensive picture of the Cypriot culture from the Neolithic period to the Roman times.
There are also district archaeological museums in all towns, two site museums, in Episkopi (Limassol) for the antiquities of Kourion and at Kouklia (Paphos) for the antiquities of Paleapaphos, Folk Art Museums at Yeroskipou, Lefkara and Phikardhou and an Ethnological Museum in the Nicosia House of Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios.
Most of the ancient monuments and archaeological sites on the island are open to the public and visitors may, with the aid of inexpensive guide books, tour the sites.
On the other hand ancient theatres have been fully reconstructed and host several theatrical, dance, musical and other performances. At the same time mobile Cyprus antiquities in the form of representative collections are sent abroad for exhibition. Such touring exhibitions are organized in many parts of the world.
Cypriote antiquities are also objects of scientific study during international congresses and seminars on archaeology.
An achievement of the Department of Antiquities is the inclusion in 1980, of both Paleapaphos (Kouklia) and Nea Paphos (Kato Paphos) in the World Cultural Heritage List of Unesco.
In 1986 nine Byzantine Churches situated in the Troodos range, those of Agios Nicolaos tis Stegis in Kakopetria village, Agios Ioannis Lambadistis in Kalopanayiotis village, Panayia tou Moutoulla in Moutoullas village, Archangelos in Pedoulas village, Panayia tis Poditou in Galata village, Stavros tou Agiasmati in Platanistasa village and Asinou near Nikitari village were also included in the World Cultural Heritage List of Unesco.
Cultural Life of Cyprus
There is an intense and active interest amongst all the people in Cyprus in fostering the creative drive in the field of Letters and the Arts and to strengthen cultural awareness.
Both the Government as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals have given high priority in making culture available to all, so that there is a greater participation and receptiveness on behalf of the public in the island's cultural life and in disseminating and projecting cultural achievements abroad in order to highlight Cyprus' links with international culture.
Particular emphasis is placed on promoting literature, music, dance (modern and classical), the visual arts and the cinema. In addition a special arts festival (The "Kypria") is organized annually with a view to upgrading the art movement on the island and highlighting its links with international culture. Since its inception, in 1993, this has become an institution making high quality cultural entertainment accessible to a wide range of people. The various performances include: theatre, ballet, opera, music. Alongside well-known international artists or ensembles, Cypriot artists who have distinguished themselves abroad and acquired international reputation are also invited to participate.
LIST OF 13 SITES FROM CYPRUS INCLUDED IN THE WORLD HERITAGE LIST OF UNESCO
1980, Paphos, Sites of Palaepaphos and Nea Paphos ,from 12th century BC to 5th cent AD:
Inhabited since the Neolithic Age, Paphos was a site of worship of Aphrodite and prehistoric fertility deities. Aphrodite's legendary birthplace was on this island, where her temple was erected by the Myceneans in the 12th century B.C. The remains of villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses and tombs give the site its exceptional architectural and historic value. The mosaics of Nea Paphos are among the most beautiful in the world.
Painted churches in the Troodos region, Nicosia and Limassol:
The World Heritage Committee declared that these churches bear outstanding testimony to Byzantine civilization, that they are well-conserved examples of rural religious architecture and that they provide evidence for the links between eastern and western Christian art.The architecture of these small churches is unique, confined to the Troodos range and almost certainly of indigenous origin. The interior-and in several cases partrs of the exterior- of these churches is decorated with wall paintings, frescoes, which are of exceptional artistic quality.
1985, Kakopetria, Church of Ayios Nikolaos tis Steyis(St. Nicholas of the Roof), 11th cent.
1985, Kalopanayiotis,Ayios Ionannis (St. John)Lambadhistis Monastery, 11th cent.
1985, Nikitari,Church of Panayia (The Virgin) Phorviotissa (Asinou), 12th cent.
1985, Lagoudhera, Church of Panayia (The Virgin)tou Arakou,12th cent
1985, Moutoullas,Church of Panayia (The Virgin) 13th-14th cent.
1985, Pedhoulas, Church of Archangelos Michael (Archangel Michael),15th cent.
1985, Pelendria, Church of Timios Stavros (Holy Cross), 13th-15th cent.
1985, Galata, Church of Panayia (The Virgin) Podhithou, 16th cent.
1985, Platanistasa, Church of Stavros (Holy Cross) Ayiasmati,15th cent.
2001, Palaichori, Church of Metamorphosis tou Soteros,(the Transfiguration of the Saviour), 16th cent.
1998, Choirokoitia, Neolithic Settlement of Choirokoitia,7th- 4th mill.BC:
The Neolithic settlement of Choirokhoitia, occupied from the 7th to the 4th millennium BC, is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the eastern Mediterranean. Its remains and the finds from the excavations there have thrown much light on the evolution of human society in this key region. Only part of the site has been excavated, and so it forms an exceptional archaeological reserve for future study.
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© 2011 - 2023 Republic of Cyprus,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Stockholm