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The sanctuary at Athienou-Malloura is located in the Malloura Valley in the fertile Mesaoria plain in south-central Cyprus. The Athienou-Malloura sanctuary was first investigated in 1862 by the French architect Edmond Duthoit, who accompanied Ernest Renan on his Mission de Phénicie; Renan’s mission included an expedition to Cyprus directed by Melchior de Vogüé. The core of Cypriot limestone sculptures in the Louvre come from Duthoit’s investigations in the Athienou region at Malloura and Golgoi. The excavations of the Malloura sanctuary by the Athienou Archaeological Project (1991-present) have revealed an extensive history of use from the eighth century BCE to the fourth century CE (Toumazou et al. 2011; 2015). The artifact assemblage includes ceramic vessels and lamps, coins, faunal remains, incense burners, and other cult objects. They have recovered over 4,500 fragments of limestone and terracotta sculpture. The sculptures depict human, divine, and animal figures that range in size from several centimeters to over-life-size (Averett 2011; Counts 1998, 2011).

The earliest material found at the site consists of CG III and CA I ceramics, suggesting that the sanctuary was founded at this time, although likely on a modest scale. An eighth-century BCE foundation is consistent with the beginning of new sanctuaries founded across the island at this time and their perceived role in negotiating relationships between the island’s independent city-kingdoms, especially at a time when written evidence for contacts between these polities and foreign empires first appears.

The earliest architecture dates to the CA II and CC periods, and increased votive activity reveals extensive use of the sanctuary at this time and provides more information on the nature of the Malloura cult. A series of robust walls in the southeastern area of the excavated sanctuary indicates a more architecturally defined sacred space, although the exact plan of this phase is unclear due to the fragmentary state of the walls. In some areas, these walls were constructed directly on the bedrock; associated deposits, also lying directly on the bedrock, included other CA material, mostly ceramics and statuary. A rectangular structure in the southwestern portion of the excavated area dates to the late CA or early CC period (Toumazou and Counts 2011: 76); the structure is oriented east–west with a preserved enclosed area of at least 100 m2. A circular hearth or altar of a type common in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages in Cyprus lay in the northwest corner. This feature was constructed of upright ceramic sherds dated to the CA II period enclosed by a low clay rim and contained evidence of extensive burning inside. To the north of the large rectangular structure is a smaller structure (ca. 3 × 5 m) of the same orientation; it includes a clay-lined hearth in its southwest corner and the structure is dated by ceramics to the CA II–CC I. Beginning in the CA II, a significant increase in votive offerings offers more insight into the nature of the cult and the deities worshipped in this phase. Handmade terracotta figurines are dedicated in the hundreds. This period also represents the floruit of dedications in limestone statuary, which range in size from small statuettes to over-life-size statues, that depict the major types common on the island from the late seventh/early sixth century BCE to the end of the CC period.

At the onset of the Hellenistic period, circa 300 BCE, the sanctuary underwent a major reorganization and expansion. This late fourth/early third-century BCE reorganization was almost certainly a response to the island’s new political situation. With the abolition of the autonomous city-states at the end of the fourth century BCE and the eventual incorporation of the island under the control of the Hellenistic kingdom of the Ptolemies in 294 BCE, significant political and social changes followed. The sanctuary at Athienou-Malloura appeared to have flourished during this time, with a rich assortment of material from this period, including closed-shaped lamps, coins, and, especially, limestone sculpture depicting divine figures. To date, excavations in the sanctuary have produced more than 80 examples of the so-called Cypriot Pan statuettes, as well as several representations of the Greek goddess Artemis and even a couple depictions of Aphrodite. This material points to the continued importance of the sanctuary for local residents during Ptolemaic rule and, significantly, a shift in cult activity with the addition of female divine iconography (which may, in fact, have begun in the CC period; see Counts and Toumazou 2003) and changing ritual practices. The major architectural overhaul of the Malloura sanctuary also suggests a shift in use patterns in the Hellenistic period. Some of the earlier votives, sacrificial debris, and other ritual materials were gathered and buried as fill to create a new hard-packed floor layer, an act that also buried or destroyed earlier architecture. Cobble packing was also used to level the uneven bedrock, presumably to create the new floor. The sanctuary space was larger, but also now monumentalized by the construction of a well-built, roughly rectangular peribolos to mark sacred space; the peribolos encloses an area of at least 450 m2. The walls were constructed of a lower course with limestone cobbles (including fragments of limestone statuary from earlier phases) set in a lime mortar with an upper course in mudbrick. Although the sanctuary may have been accessed by multiple entries during this period (two possible entrances were identified along a section of the eastern and southern walls, respectively [Toumazou and Counts 2011]), a clear monumental entrance was built into the northwestern portion of the Hellenistic–Roman peribolos. A large, reused ashlar block (ca. 0.5 m tall) acted as the eastern doorjamb of the entryway, which at its basal level contained a threshold stone, broken in situ by modern looting (the other pieces of this threshold stone were found in the backfill of a looter’s pit that cut into this entrance). An upright limestone pillar (ca. 0.10 m × 0.09 m, with an exposed height of 0.43 m) was found immediately to the north outside of the threshold, in association with a flat circular stone (ca. 0.36 m in diameter) that appears to have been used as some sort of surface or platform. The pillar likely marked movement from secular to sacred space as one entered the sanctuary, with parallels in Levantine sanctuaries. A monumental pisé altar located in the north-central part of the sanctuary can also be dated to this phase. Although modern looting has obscured its exact shape, estimates place the original dimensions around 5 × 3 m, with a preserved height of about 0.5 m. The altar rested atop a cultural level above the hard-packed fill laid down in the Hellenistic period discussed above. A circular basin was cut into the top of the feature, similar to the altars depicted on two reliefs from Golgoi. This basin was later covered and leveled by pisé layers, and three additional basins were later created in the northwest corner and southern end of the altar. Each basin was filled with a uniform deposit that contained pieces of mudbrick or burnt earth, covered with a thin layer of pisé.

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Suggested Citation

Derek B. Counts, Erin Walcek Averett, Kevin Garstki, Michael Toumazou. "Athienou-Malloura from Cyprus". (2017) In Visualizing Votive Practice: Exploring Limestone and Terracotta Sculpture from Athienou-Malloura through 3D Models. Derek B. Counts, Erin Walcek Averett, Kevin Garstki, Michael Toumazou (Eds.) . Released: 2017-12-08. Open Context. <>

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