Yeaterday we decided to visit the small village of Kouklia which suprisingly is home to Cyprus’ first UNESCO site, the Sanctuary of Aphroditi, which dates back to around 2500BC as a place of worship for the Cypriot goddess of fertility, and later Aphroditi.
We took the 631 bus from Mandria that sets off from Paphos harbour, so its very easy to get to. Entry was €4.50 and free for children so pretty good value for a large site and museum that you can spend an hour or two exploring.
The temple to the original Cypriot goddess was small and open plan- there isn’t a lot of it left but is one of the earliest sites of worship discovered in the Paphos area and so is incredibly important to Cypriot history.
There are several other buildings in the area, of which some are associated with the Sanctuary site and some from later developments. After the Roman Empire outlawed pagan worship in favour of Christianity in 391AD, the site lost its religious importance but remained an important site for government officials and sugar processing.
The most significant artefact is the cylindrical stone that was used by the first worshippers to symbolise the goddess of fertility, and contined to be used as the focus of worship even after the Greek and Roman invasions of Cyprus. This was originally in the temple, but now sits in the museum.
The museum itself is located in the Frankish fort, built in the 13th century. It’s an interesting building in its own right, but also houses many of the artefacts found around the site and village area.
Inside, you can see votive offerings to Aphroditi in Ancient Greek but also in the original Cypro-Syllabic language, lots of statues, pots and glassware, an ornate sarcophagus, as well as huge baths (complete with seat and sponge holder!) that we’re found inside the temple itself. We also found some very friendly American archaeologists who were cataloging their finds and hoping to open a dig site next summer which was great to get an inside view of the site.
On our way back to the exit, we found the site of the House of Lena, a partially excavated house with a huge mosaic showing the seduction of Lena by Zeus in the guise of a swan. While not quite in as fine detail as the mosaics at Kato Paphos this was still lovely to see.