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Mathiatis mine excavation project a success
2006-01-17 12:29:29

Nicosia, Jan 16 (CNA) - The Department of Antiquities has announced that the South Mathiatis Mine Excavation Project, in the framework of an educational research program in cooperation with Inter Community School Cyprus Project 2005, under the direction of Dr. Walter Fasnacht, has been ''a full success on the archaeological side.''

The goal of the project was to excavate all evidence of copper working threatened by erosion at the edge of South Mathiati Mine.

Students participating in the programme had the opportunity to excavate, learn about archaeological techniques in excavation and survey and visit other archaeological sites and monuments. Both the students and organisers agree that the programme and particularly the excavation was a valuable experience. Cooperation with the village and school authorities was particularly helpful. The participants from the staff of the Department of Antiquities were archaeologist George Georgiou and technician Elias Christophi.

According to the Department of Antiquities, the South Mathiatis Mine Excavation Project was a full success on the archaeological side.

The reward of 10 days of excavation was the base of a copper smelting furnace with its last charge of slag still in situ, a unique find in Cyprus and particularly in the whole Eastern Mediterranean. The first was treated and restored in the conservation workshop of the Cyprus Museum and now exhibited in one of the Cyprus Museum galleries.

Many samples of slag, metal, ore and furnace material were exported and are now in the Swiss Federal Labs of Materials Testing (EMPA Dubendorf). Some 20 samples analysed so far show that most finds were copper matte and not slag or metal. The excavated furnace is, therefore, associated with an intermediate step of the smelting of copper ores rather than with the refining of raw copper to the final product.

About 300 charcoal samples were exported for wood species identification in order to reconstruct vegetation and climatic changes in the first millennium BC on Cyprus. Over 90% turned out to be olive wood (olea europaea), mainly branches. This is a unique result, because it means that olive wood was specifically harvested for the production of copper.

In addition, soil samples from inside and around the furnace were exported and will be analysed to define the dynamics of trace element migration in the ground.

Besides digging, all members of the team were involved in surveying the area around the two modern mines of Mathiatis, the gold mine and the copper mine of the 20th century. Only in and around the gold mine, where they were excavating, did they find ancient copper working evidence, in three areas, on the North, South and East face of the open cast mine. The evidence consists of scattered slag and furnace lining and up to 20 ancient galleries exposed by modern mining activities. No other furnace could be detected.

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