About Cyprus

Feature Articles


· Khirokitia
· Sugar Mills in the Middle Ages
· The Ancient ship of Kyrenia
· The Forerunners of Famagusta: Enkomi – Salamis
· Medieval Famagusta
· Famagusta Under Turkish Rule 1571-1878
· Famagusta - A ghost town since 1974
· Ancient Copper Mining in Cyprus
· The Cartography of Cyprus Through the Ages
· The Byzantine Art of Cyprus

· The Case of the Kanakaria Mosaics
· The Stolen Art Treasures of Cyprus

· The Environment
· The Marine Life of Cyprus
· The Snakes of Cyprus


The Neolithic preceramic period is represented by the settlement of Khirokitia and about 20 other similar settlements, spread throughout Cyprus.

The site was discovered in 1934 by P. Dikaios who carried out six excavations between 1934 and 1946 in the name of the Department of Antiquities. Further excavations were then held in the early 70's but were interrupted by the Turkish invasion of the island. A French mission resumed excavation of the site in 1977.

The settlement of Khirokitia is situated on the slope of a hill in the valley of the Maroni River towards the southern coast of the island about 6 km from the sea.

It is a closed village, cut off from the outside world, apart from by the river, by a strong wall of stones 2.5 m thick and 3 m at its highest preserved level. Access into the village was probably via several entry points through the wall.

The buildings within this wall consist of round structures huddled close together. The lower parts of these buildings are often of stone and attain massive proportions by constant additions of further skins of stones. Their external diameter varies between 2.3 m and 9.20 m while the internal diameter is only between 1.4 m and 4.80 m. A collapsed flat roof of one building found recently indicates that not all roofs were dome shaped as was originally believed.

The internal divisions of each hut were according to the purpose of its usage. Low walls, platforms designated work, rest or storage areas. They had hearths presumably used for cooking and heating, benches and windows and in many cases there is evidence of piers to support an upper floor. It is believed that the huts were like rooms several of which were grouped around an open courtyard and together formed the home.

The population of the village at any one time is thought not to have exceeded 300 to 600 inhabitants. The people were rather short - the men about 1.61 m on average and the women about 1.51 m. Infant mortality was very high and life expectancy was about 22 years. On average adult men reached 35 years of age and women 33. The dead were buried in crouched positions just under the floors of the houses. In some instances provision was made for offerings so presumably a form of ancestor cult existed inside households.

This, the earliest known culture in Cyprus, consisted of a well-organised, developed society mainly engaged in farming, hunting and herding. Farming was mainly of cereal crops. They also picked the fruit of trees growing wild in the surrounding area such as pistachio nuts, figs, olives and prunes. The four main species of animals whose remains were found on the site were deer, sheep, goats and pigs.

The village of Khirokitia was suddenly abandoned for reasons unknown at around 6000 BC and it seems that the island remained uninhabited for about 1.500 years until the next recorded entity, the Sotira group.

The ancient Cypriot settlement of Khoirokitia has been included in the UNESCO world heritage list.

Sugar Mills in the Middle Ages

Sugar was a very important product for Cyprus in the Middle Ages.

Recent archaeological finds from excavations at the medieval sugar mills of Episkopi "Serayia" and Kolossi in the Limassol district have revealed both that Cyprus was an important producer of and exporter of sugar in the 14th and 15th centuries and the process involved in producing it.

Previously many written records had existed mentioning that sugar was extensively cultivated in Venetian times and emphasising the important part it played in bringing wealth to the island. Archaeological evidence now comes to corroborate these writings and gives tangible evidence of the buildings and the mechanical devices used in the sugar production process.

At the sugar mill of Episkopi "Serayia", which belonged to the well-known Venetian family of the Queen of Cyprus, Caterina Cornaro, the northwestern corner of the large oblong boiling area has been uncovered. This enabled archaeologists to draw the dimensions of the boiling area, which are about 24 m long and 9 m wide.

At the Kolossi sugar mill, which belonged to the medieval religious military Order of St. John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers), a subterranean vaulted chamber was found very well preserved. It housed the horizontal wooden wheel, which, powered by water from the adjoining aqueduct, turned the millstones above which were used to crush the sugar cane. Part of the wheel also came to light.

Excavations have been taking place in Cyprus over the last ten years at three main sugar mill sites - at Kouklia "Stavros", Episkopi "Serayia" and Kolossi. Written sources indicate that there are others. The various excavations and findings throw considerable light on the process involved.

In the first stage the cane was crushed in a grinding hall by large revolving millstones powered by water from the aqueduct. Hence the existence of aqueducts connected to the sugar mills, which also irrigated the cane fields.

The mash produced was then squeezed out and boiled several times in large copper cauldrons, according to the quality of sugar desired. This was done in the boiling area of the refinery in special hearths, which constituted an essential feature of the sugar mills.

The sugar was then poured into special cone-shaped moulds with an opening at the bottom, which were placed on top of narrow-necked, flat-bottomed jars. The top quality crystallised sugar in the shape of a cone remained in the mould leaving the molasses in the lower pot. Cyprus sugar was famous and coveted because it consisted of thrice boiled high quality sugar.

Sugar plantations abounded on the island between the 14th and 16th centuries and sugar was widely exported, particularly to Venice. Cyprus acquired great wealth as a result. With the arrival of Ottoman rule, however, sugar was replaced by cotton and then forgotten entirely.

The Ancient Ship of Kyrenia

(Extracts from the Kyrenia Shipwreck by Susan Womer Katzev in the Athenian, March 1982)

In 1967 a Greek merchant ship which sailed during the lifetime of Alexander the Great, carrying a cargo of 400 amphorae, whose contents of almonds and olives remained intact, was found sunk off the coast of Kyrenia on the northern coast of Cyprus. It is one of the oldest shipwrecks ever found.

The ship, found by a Cypriot diver, lay at thirty metres on an unruffled, flat seabed of sand, manta rays, and eelgrass. Aided by currents, a muddy blanket had rapidly built up around the ship soon after it hit bottom and rolled over on her port side, blocking oxygen and sea life from attacking the timbers. About three quarters of the hull was thus preserved.

While ancient shipwrecks have been found all over the Mediterranean, nothing or very little of the ships themselves had survived. The Kyrenia ship was different, however. The unique circumstances that preserved it, owing to its load of amphorae under which a protective layer of sand kept a nearly complete merchant ship from destruction, have resulted in making it, to date, the finest preserved ship of the late Classical period of Greek civilisation ever found.

A team of archaeologists of the Pennsylvania University Museum, having been granted government permission, under professor Michael Katzev set about the task of air-lifting away layer by layer of the muddy sand covering.

The mission consisted of scientists, technical experts and students of 12 different nationalities. It took them eight years from 1967 to 1974 to raise, preserve and restore the wreck.

Having remained underwater for 2.200 years the ship's waterlogged wood had undergone cellular breakdown. The timber had lost its strength and had the appearance of wet bread. The preservation work involved impregnation of the wood with a wax-like compound called polyethylene glycol in order to give it solidity and prevent shrinkage, a process which took from a few months for the smaller pieces to two whole years for the bigger ones.

After the ship was preserved it was then painstakingly reassembled. The ship and its cargo were then housed and put on display in a special gallery in the heart of Kyrenia castle, where it still lies today. Since 1974, however, when Turkey invaded and occupied the northern part of Cyprus, including Kyrenia, the ship has been out of bounds.

The archaeological work revealed that the vessel was an open boat, only about 15 metres long, with very short decks in the bow and stern. Under the stern deck there was a 'sail locker' which contained spare parts for the rigging, bundles of iron ingots, remnants of foods such as almonds, olives, pistachios, beans sprigs of dried herbs, grapes and figs and even a marble basin for performing sacrifices which would bring the voyagers good luck.

From the ship's cargo the itinerary of her last voyage can be retraced. She had sailed the islands of the eastern Aegean before she sank. She carried on board 400 Rhodian wine amphorae, millstones from the island of Nisyros and 10.000 almonds, which had probably just been collected from Cyprus.

Most of this simple ship was open and crammed with amphorae, millstones and perhaps bolts of cloth or other perishable materials. Undoubtedly, the crew and captain ate and slept on top of the unwieldy cargo.

Little is known about the crew other than it consisted of four people, as four plates, bowls, saucers and drinking cups were found, but there were no traces of personal belongings.

At first archaeologists believed that the reason why the ship had sunk was as a result of old age. This was an old ship, about a century old, which probably went down from old age. Carbon-14 tests suggested that the trees used to build the ship were felled in about the year 389 BC, whereas the freshly harvested almonds in the cargo gave a date of 288 BC. Thus the ship was about a century old with evidence that it had often been repaired, the last being with lead sheathing to shore up the seepage.

The great age of the ship initially led archaeologists to believe that a slight collision, or simply wave stress may have finally opened her up. However, the discovery of iron spearheads underneath the hull and embedded in the sides of the ship led to the conclusion that the ship had been attacked by pirates. The Kyrenia coast has numerous secret coves from which swift rowed pirate ships could attack merchantmen.

This would also explain the disappearance of the crew, who would probably have been removed by the pirates to be sold as slaves. Then they would have combed the ship's cargo, picking up anything of value in coins, movable cargo and crew's belongings, before axing a hole in the bilge so the ship would sink, covering up all evidence of the attack. In view of the fact that most of the ship's planking is lost just at the critical turn from the keel to the bilge where this scuttling chop would most likely have occurred. In its early years on the seabed the waterlogged ship split open under the weight of the cargo, exposing the broken bilge planks to water and marine life, which attacked them until the silt, built up again.

The Kyrenia shipwreck was raised, studied, preserved and restored with such fidelity that we now have a nearly complete picture of how a merchantman was built in the fourth century BC.

In 1982 the Hellenic Institute for the Preservation of Nautical Tradition, which has as one of its aims the preservation and study of various aspects of Greek maritime tradition, decided to build a replica of the Kyrenia ship in a joint project with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology of Texas.

The replica has the exact dimensions of the prototype and was built using the same methods applied by ancient shipwrights. Known as the "shell-first method", it involved the building-up of the planks first, in contrast to the technique use din modern wooden shipbuilding, where, after laying the keel, the frames are placed first. As far as is known, this was the only method used in shipbuilding up to the tenth century AD.

The original name of the ship was not preserved, so she is known affectionately as "Kyrenia". The replica was named Kyrenia II. Construction was completed in 1985 and followed the original lines of the ancient shipbuilders. The materials used were close to the original as possible. Pine was selected and for the tenons pegs of oak. Its sail measured 64 sq. m, an educated guess as to the original.

Kyrenia II was launched on 22 June 1985 and went on a trial sail before attempting to travel to the islands of the Aegean in an attempt to recreate the probable route the ancient ship made during her last voyage.

Before returning to Cyprus, the ship represented Greece in New York during the 4th of July celebrations on the centenary of the statue of Liberty and the anniversary of American Independence.

The Forerunners of Famagusta: Enkomi -Salamis

by Dr Vassos Karageorghis

Former Director of the Cyprus Department of Antiquities

The area around today's Famagusta was since antiquity favourable to growth and prosperity. There was a fertile plain, west of the bay of Salamis, the bay itself provided a natural harbour, and its geographical position was ideally located to provide an outlet for trade and cultural relations with the Near East.

As early as the 17th century BC a small community of farmers established a settlement behind the rocky plateau west of the modern village of Enkomi, not far from the coast on the north bank of the Pedieos River. This modest rural settlement was destined to become a large, prosperous and cosmopolitan town during the second half of the 2nd millennium BC when Cyprus developed a brisk trade with both the Aegean and the Syro-Palestinian littoral.

Copper ore was transported from the copper mines to Enkomi, where it was smelted in metallurgical workshops and then shipped for export to both east and west. The town had a harbour, probably an inner one, which communicated with the sea through a navigable channel.

The copper trade enriched the merchants of Enkomi as is evidenced by the rich tomb gifts which accompanied the burials: exquisite Mycenaean vases decorated with chariots, bulls, birds and other motifs, exotic goods such as faience and alabaster vases, scarabs, ostrich eggs, jewellery of gold and silver. Many of those brought to light are exhibited in the museums of Cyprus but most unfortunately, found their way to museums in Europe at the end of the 19th century.

The town underwent profound changes towards the very end of the 13th century BC. Public buildings of a monumental character were erected of large hewn stone blocks, streets were constructed crossing at right angels and the town was fortified with a formidable "cyclopean" wall; metallurgy received a fresh impetus and new artistic styles were introduced. All these changes are attributed to the arrival of newcomers to the island who are usually identified with the Achaeans of the Aegean.

The beginning of the 11th century BC witnessed further changes in this region. Following a major catastrophe, which may have been due to either internal strife or a natural phenomenon the town rapidly declined and its population moved eastwards to establish a new centre on the coast around a natural harbour. This movement coincided with the arrival of the final influx of Aegean colonists who completed the Hellenization of the area, a process, which had already begun one hundred years earlier. This even left a deep impression on the island's traditions and is reflected in myths concerning the foundation of certain Cypriot towns by Greek heroes after the end of the Trojan War. Thus the founder of the new town by the sea is said to have been Teucer, son of Telamon, king of the island of Salamis near Attica, who named it Salamis after his fatherland.

Salamis must have been prosperous already in the 11th century BC. A tomb excavated in 1965 by the French Mission of the University of Lyon brought to light an extraordinary wealth of tomb-gifts, which also attest trade relations with the Near East.

This 11th century BC town was confined to a rather small area around the harbour but soon expanded westwards to occupy the area, which today is covered by forest. The cemetery of Salamis covers a large area from the western limits of the forest to the Monastery of St. Barnabas to the west, to the outskirts of the village of Ayios Serghios to the north, and to the outskirts of Enkomi village to the south. It contains tombs dating from the 9th century BC down to the Early Christian period. The earlier tombs are within the forest area, near the boundary of the early town.

It is most unfortunate that the Turkish invasion has not permitted the continuation of excavations, which began at Salamis in 1952 and were in progress until 1974. As a result very few architectural remains have been uncovered which illustrate the history of the town of the Archaic and Classical periods.

This gap in our knowledge, however, has been partly filled by evidence from the necropolis: the excavation of the monumental "royal tombs" of Salamis opened a new chapter in the history of the town. The tomb chambers had all been looted long before the excavation, probably in the 19th century, but a considerable amount of material was recovered in the spacious passages (dromoi) in front of the built facades. Horses along with their chariots were sacrificed in honour of the dead, an indication of the high rank of the deceased. It is not certain that all of the half dozen tombs called "royal" were used for the burial of members of the royal family of Salamis. Some may have been for the burial of nobles, but the term "royal" distinguishes them from the rock-cut tombs, which were used for the burial of ordinary citizens.

One tomb of the "royal" necropolis was particularly rich and has already become famous in the history of Cypriot and even of Mediterranean archaeology. This is Tomb 79, which contained in its dooms two chariots and horses with all their metal gear and trappings, elaborately decorated with pictorial motifs taken from the repertoire of 8th-7th century BC Near Eastern art. There were also an ivory bed, an ivory throne of exceptional workmanship and a large bronze cauldron with griffin and siren attachments at the rim.

Cyprus was under the control of the Assyrians at this time but the city-states of the island enjoyed a relative independence as long as they paid their tribute to the Assyrian king. This allowed the kings of the various cities to accumulate wealth and powers and vie with the Assyrian king in pomp and luxury. Certain burial customs observed in the "royal tombs" of Salamis relate directly to Homeric rites, such as the sacrifice of horses in honour of the dead and the offering of jars of olive oil. Some scholars have interpreted this phenomenon as the result of influence of the Homeric Epics in Cyprus.

Though Salamis maintained direct links with the Near East during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, the ancestral bonds with the Aegean did not weaken. One royal tomb contained a large amount of Greek Geometric pottery and this has been explained as the dowry of a Greek princess who married into the royal family of Salamis. Greek pottery was also found in tombs of ordinary citizens. At this time the Greeks were embarking on an eastward expansion by founding colonies in Asia Minor and Syria; Salamis must have served as an intermediate station; it has even been suggested that Cypriots helped the Greeks in their venture.

The history of Salamis during the early Archaic and Classical periods is reflected in the narrations of the Greek historian Herodotou and the speeches of the Greek orator Isokrates. The city was then the capital of the island and led the other Cypriot cities in their efforts to liberate themselves from Persian rule. Under King Evagoras (411-374 BC) Greek culture and art flourished in the city and it would be interesting one day when the spade of the archaeologist uncovers public buildings of this period. A monument, which illustrates the end of the Classical period in Salamis, is the tumulus, which covered the cenotaph of Nicocreon, the last king of Salamis, who perished in 311 BC. On its monumental platform were found several clay heads, some of which are portraits, perhaps of members of the royal family who were honoured after their tragic death on the pyre.

The public buildings uncovered so far at the city site of Salamis date to the post-Classical period. The temple of Zeus Salaminios whose cult was established, according to tradition, by Teucer himself, must have existed since the foundation of the city; the extant remains date to the late Hellenistic period. The "cultural centre" of Salamis during the Roman period was situated at the northernmost part of the city, where a gymnasium, theatre, amphitheatre, stadium and public baths have been revealed. Although Salamis ceased to be the capital of Cyprus from the Hellenistic period onwards when it was replaced by Paphos, its wealth and importance did not diminish. The city was particularly favoured by the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian who restored and established its public buildings. During excavations several marble statues were discovered which adorned spacious stoas of the gymnasium and the stage building of the theatre, together with decrees in honour of the benefactors of the city.

Earthquakes in 332 and 342 AD destroyed Salamis together with other ancient Cypriot towns. Emperor Constantios helped the Salaminians reconstruct their city by relieving them from paying taxes for a short period and thus the new city, rebuilt on a smaller scale, was named Constantia. Several monumental buildings of this early Christian city of Constantia have been uncovered by excavations including a house, which may have been used by a local bishop and the spacious basilica of St. Epiphanios. Part of the city wall has also been revealed. Public building outside the walled city were also reconstructed e.g. the gymnasium, which was now used as baths, and the theatre where mimic performances used to take place. Outside the city site a monumental basilica was erected dedicated to Barnabas, a citizen of Salamis who together with St. Paul preached Christianity throughout the island.

The ancient splendour of Salamis, however, could not be revived. The Arab invasions brought new calamities to the already impoverished city whose end was approaching. But the resilience of this eastern part of Cyprus did not permit oblivion or decline: another city was established a few miles to the south which was destined to live anew some of the glories of its predecessor during the mediaeval period; this was Famagusta.

The region of Enkomi-Salamis is no doubt one of the most important archaeological areas in Cyprus. An English archaeologist called Salamis the most important archaeological site of the East Mediterranean. Before the Turkish invasion there was much archaeological activity there; one French Mission was excavating at Enkomi, another at Salamis and the Department of Antiquities was busy almost throughout the year with repairs and restorations of monuments and was engaged in excavations at Salamis.

The Turkish occupation put an end to all activity and made both sites inaccessible for archaeologists who had laboured for many years to unearth the monuments and to study their history. The Turkish invasion did not only bring disaster to the population of Cyprus but also "imprisoned" monuments and left them to the mercy of the weather.

Important archaeological collections were kept in Famagusta town. In the District Archaeological Museum there were marble statues from the gymnasium and the theatre of Salamis, Mycenaean pottery and jewellery from Enkomi and other objects representative of the rich archaeological heritage of the whole district. When an UNESCO representative visited the Museum a few years after the invasion he noticed that the showcases, which had contained small valuable objects, were empty.

The richest archaeological collection in Cyprus was that of Mr Chr. Hadjiprodromou. It included masterpieces of Cypriot art from the Chalcolithic to the mediaeval period. Most of the objects in the collection were unique. Soon after the invasion some of them were detected at an auction in London and were reclaimed by their lawful owner. Others were bought on the black market in France. Photographs of other objects were circulated in Europe and America for prospective buyers. No doubt the collection was thoroughly plundered. Fortunately every object had been described and photographed before 1974 so the archaeological world has some information at least.

Medieval Famagusta

(From Camille Enlart "L'art gothique et la Renaissance a Chypre", Paris, 1899. pp. 251-255)

It was after the loss of Acre in 1291 that the city of Famagusta rose to great importance because it was the obligatory entrepot for all commercial transactions between west and east. In 1300 almost all the churches, and the fortifications as well, were still in the process of construction. They show the influence of Provence and Champagne and thus corroborate the documentary evidence for close connections between Cyprus and the fair of Champagne and of southern France.

The wealth of Famagusta was proverbial between 1300 and 1370. John of Verona speaks of it in 1335 and describes the lavish pomp of local ceremonies, such as a funeral with mourners and a wedding procession in which the bride rode on horseback surrounded by forty candles. In 1350 Ludolf of Sudheim was astonished by another bride whose ornaments were richer than those of all the brides of France put together. Both these pilgrims comment on, and are scandalised by, the wealth and display of the courtesans of Famagusta.

But the outstanding example of riches ostentatiously flaunted was afforded by the Lachas brothers, Nestorian merchants from Syria. When they entertained King Peter I in their palace the two brothers went to ridiculous lengths to display that parvenu splendour with which the rich merchants of Famagusta used to dazzle all the travellers who came there. Precious stones were laid out on plates, the gentlemen of the royal court showing no scruples about picking up a few keepsakes; huge armfuls of aloe-wood blazed in all the fireplaces; even the kitchen stove was filled with the same aromatic firewood, which must have given a wonderful taste to the food. On another occasion one of the Lachas paid a huge sum for a carbuncle, which he proceeded to grind down in a mortar; once he presented the King with 30,000 ducats. In the end they were ruined when the Genoese sacked Famagusta in 1373 and took from them everything they had, amounting to two million ducats.

Among the merchants of Famagusta at that time there were Greeks, Syrians, Jews, Italians, Provencals and Armenians. The Syrians were predominant, and after them the Genoese. "But since the death of King Peter (1369)" says Machaeras "a malignant devil has become jealous of Famagusta". In 1372 this devil chose as his instrument St. Bridget of Sweden who decided that it was her duty to come to Cyprus to give good advice to the royal family and to preach to the people of Famagusta in the main square.

In 1373 the Genoese took the city by surprise and by treachery and sacked it thoroughly, committing the most abominable cruelties. The children of the Lachas brothers were reduced to poverty. Famagusta remained in Genoese hands until 1464, in spite of numerous attempts to recapture it by the kings of Cyprus. Under Genoa the city declined. Nicholas of Martoni in 1395 and Don Peter Tafur in 1435-1439 speak of the depths to which it had fallen.

James the Bastard, who had reconquered it, liked to live there and was able to restore its prosperity to some extent. Caterina Cornaro was forced to live in Famagusta by the Venetians but after her son James III died there she left it for Nicosia.

The Venetians made great efforts to restore it and to put it in a state of defence. In 1507 the pilgrim Pierre Mesenge, a canon of Rouen, says that Famagusta "has a fine harbour, but for as much as the said harbour has long been in ruins, and is still not well restored, ships cannot use it". He adds that this "beautiful city" is "very poor, and but few merchants live there; it is almost all inhabited by poor farm-labourers whom the above-mentioned soldiers (a thousand men in garrison) hold in great subjection"; the churches are "very poor and ill-appointed"; pilgrims seem to have found no hostelry there but lodged with "one of the soldiers of the city, a native of Orleans". Mesenge refers to the massive rebuilding carried out by the Venetians but, apart from the unhealthiness of the place, the works were hindered by storms and earthquakes in 1546 and 1568. After the Venetian occupation the monasteries were converted into barracks. In 1490, in response to a petition by the inhabitants, the Doge Barbarigo ordered these buildings to be repaired and the churches evacuated.

In 1570-1571 Famagusta was the last stronghold in Cyprus that held out against the Turks. It resisted a siege of thirteen months, and a terrible bombardment, until at last the commander, Marco Bragadin was flayed alive, his lieutenant, Tiepolo, was hanged and the inhabitants either massacred or reduced to slavery.

In the 17th century Famagusta was practically deserted. The Turks used to sell the materials of the houses; when one of the Pashas forbade them to sell the stones they satisfied themselves with carrying off the timbers until the time when the construction of Port Said, Larnaca and the Suez canal brought a new demand for materials from the quarry that Famagusta had become.

Under the Turkish regime Christians were not permitted to live in Famagusta; they were only allowed to enter it on foot, and even so it was difficult to get permission. The British regime has cancelled this prohibition; I owe a personal debt of gratitude for the valuable and effective protection of the British authorities.

From whichever direction one approaches it Famagusta can be seen from a long way off. The graceful outlines of its towers, either silhouetted against the sea or reflected in it as they rise from behind the still intact circuit of the walls, give the impression of a completely European city, still flourishing.

Famagusta Under Turkish Rule 1571 –1878

(Kyprianos, History of Cyprus, Venice. 1788,p.453)

"After the capture of Ammochostos, and up to the new harvest of the following year 1572, there prevailed great and distressing dearth and famine, the result of the war; although Mustafa Pasha, and others who were put in authority under him, tried to encourage the peasants to sow, yet the result was small, because they had not sufficient seed. The very few Cypriots of the ruling classes who were left after the war gained their freedom somehow or other, but, like other citizens of Lefkosia, were stripped of all their goods, and having no other way of gaining a livelihood and he means of paying the poll-tax, became labourers and muleteers, hawking wine and the like from place to place, and selling it to get a living: a humble employment, and very different from their old stately condition. The inhabitants of Ammochostos remained in their houses, and appeared at the time to be the owners, yet afterwards the Turks dispossessed many of them, on the pretext that they were tenants only, not owners; and thus they bore all the unimaginable ills which these new and bad neighbours could inflict upon them...

At last, after the great calamity which had reduced the island to misery, somehow or other the poverty-stricken inhabitants began little by little to address themselves again to the culture of the soil, to some small commerce with strangers, and to those few arts which still survived in the he towns. At the very beginning the dues and outgoings did not press so very had on the rajah, because the Porte knew how the country had been impoverished by the war: and the Pashas sent to govern it were to some extent controlled by the Porte, lest their harshness should drive the rajah to leave the island, or at least to revolt, for which his degraded condition would be an excuse. So that after fifteen or twenty years the Christians redeemed nearly all the monasteries from those who had seized them, and much of the church lands as well. Churchmen of position left money for masses for the repose of their souls, or bestowed it by way of gifts.

Yet there were still a few who contrived somehow to escape from the island, not enduring a new and barbarous yoke: these were scattered abroad over Crete and the Morea and Corfu and Venice;"

Famagusta - A ghost town since 1974

The glorious history of Famagusta

The oldest traces of settlements in an area found near the modern town of Famagusta, Enkomi, go back to the 13th century B.C., the Bronze Age. At the start of the Iron Age the town, now built close to the sea, was known by the name of Salamis and its kings traced their ancestry to the Trojan hero Teucer, brother of Ajax and son of the king of Salamis, an island off the coast of Athens. Salamis became one of the most important cities in Cyprus particularly during the classical period and its magnificent remains still bear witness to its past glory. The earthquakes of 332 and 343 A.D. destroyed Salamina, which was built again by the Emperor Constantio II who named it Constantia. The town regained its glory and became an administrative and religious metropolis. Numerous Arab raids from the middle of the 7th century finally caused the destruction of the town and its inhabitants moved to Arsinoe, a town situated south of Constantia which was built by Ptolemy Philadelphos in the 4th century B.C. Perhaps a small town called Ammochostos was already there and was re-named Arsinoe.

The name «Ammochostos» is first recorded during the Byzantine period as a substitute for the name Arsinoe, which gradually faded away. The Byzantine period lasted a thousand years and firmly established Cyprus as a part of the Greek Christian world. During the French and the Venetian dominations from the 12th to the 16th century «Ammochostos» - called Famagusta by its new masters - became one of the biggest harbours and trade centres of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Ottoman Turks conquered Famagusta in 1571 after a nine-month siege. Three years later they forced all Greek inhabitants out of the walled city. The displaced Greeks settled in the outskirts of the town and the new settlement, which with time grew larger than the walled city, was known by the name of Varosha. However «Famagusta» has since survived as the official name of the whole town, both old and new, whilst Varosha is used to describe the part of the town, which was inhabited solely by Greeks.

Cyprus was taken over by the British in 1878 following the agreements of the Congress of Berlin and was proclaimed a British colony after Turkey entered the First World War against England and her allies.

Since independence in 1960 and until the Turkish invasion of 1974, Famagusta had flourished both culturally and economically.

The contribution of Famagusta to the country%26rsquo;s economic activity by 1974 far exceeded its proportional dimensions within the country.

Apart from possessing over 50% of the total accommodation of Cyprus it also offered the most substantial deep-water port handling (1973) 83% of the total general cargo and 49% of the total passenger traffic to and from the island.

Whilst its population was only about 7% of the total of the country, Famagusta by 1974 accounted for over 10% of the total industrial employment and production of Cyprus, concentrating mainly on light industry compatible with its activity as a tourist resort and turning out high quality products ranging from food, beverages and tobacco to clothing, footwear, plastics, small machinery and transport equipment.

The bustling port inevitably helped concentrate in Famagusta most of the commercial activity of the island which has had, since ancient times, strong trading links with the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean.

As capital of the largest administrative district of the country the town was the administrative, commercial, service and cultural centre of that district. The district of Famagusta before the 1974 invasion was characterized by a strong and balanced agricultural economy based on citrus fruits, potatoes, tobacco and wheat. Its agricultural success and the good communications between the town and the district ensured a balanced population spread and economic activity, which could be considered as a model for other developing areas.

It was inevitable that the material progress described above would spawn and sustain the most fertile kind of cultural activity in the area, with Famagusta as its hub and centre. Painting, poetry, music and drama were finding expression in innumerable exhibitions, folk art festivals and plays enacted in the nearby-reconstructed ruins of the ancient Greek theatre of Salamis. The pursuit of human happiness in a free, just and democratic society was in 1974 the prime characteristic of Famagusta and its people.

There has not been an official census since 1960 but the population of the town in 1974 was estimated to be around 60,000 not counting about 12-15,000 persons commuting daily from the surrounding villages and suburbs to work in Famagusta. This population would swell during the peak summer tourist period to about 90-100,000 with the influx of tourists from numerous European countries, mainly England, France, Germany and Scandinavia.


Famagusta becomes a ghost town

During the second phase of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus (14 August 1974), the Messaoria plain was overrun by Turkish tanks and in two days the Turkish army was in Famagusta. The town had been completely evacuated by its Greek population who fled before the invading army and after the town had been bombed by the Turkish air force.

Unlike other parts of occupied Cyprus, the town of Famagusta was sealed off by the Turkish army immediately after being captured and no one was allowed to enter that part of the town. Not even journalists. The term «ghost town» was coined later by Swedish journalist Jan-Olof Bengtsson, who visited the Swedish UN battalion in Famagusta port and saw the sealed off part of the town from the battalion%26rsquo;s observation post. He wrote in Kvallsposten (24.9.77):

«The asphalt on the roads has cracked in the warm sun and along the sidewalks bushes are growing.

Today, September 1977, the breakfast tables are still set, the laundry still hanging and the lamps still burning.

Famagusta is a ghost-town».


1. In November 1978 the «British - American - Canadian Framework for a Solution of the Cyprus Problem» proposed the immediate resettlement of Famagusta which the plan envisaged as an act of goodwill and progress towards a speedy and final solution of the Cyprus problem.

Paragraph 12 of the Framework provided:

«In order to promote an atmosphere of goodwill and to resolve pressing humanitarian problems, the Varosha (Famagusta) area shall be resettled under UN auspices in accordance with the attached agreements. Such resettlement shall be initiated in phases with the resumption of full intercommunal negotiations on a comprehensive agreement».

2. In his 1978 report to the Security Council the UN Secretary-General suggested:

«The time may be ripe for a concrete attempt to deal with some important aspects of the existing stalemate on the ground, thus creating an opening for further significant steps...

The status of Famagusta, which obviously should not be kept in its present empty and decaying condition, may provide an opportunity of the kind. Since Famagusta is situated in the immediate vicinity of the buffer zone and is patrolled by UNFICYP troops, it would seem natural to envisage United Nations assistance in this connection».

The UN Secretary-General went on to propose the resettlement of Famagusta by its inhabitants under UN auspices.

3. The high-level agreement between the then President Mr Spyros Kyprianou and the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Dentkash signed on 19 May 1979, provided:

«Priority will be given to reaching agreement on the resettlement of Famagusta under UN auspices simultaneously with the beginning of the consideration by the interlocutors of the constitutional and territorial aspects of a comprehensive settlement. After agreement on Famagusta has been reached it will be implemented without awaiting the outcome of the discussion on other aspects of the Cyprus problem».

4. Security Council resolution 550 of 11 May, 1984: «considers attempts to settle any part of Famgusta by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the United Nations».

5. In May 1993 the UN Secretary-General proposed a package of confidence-building measures as a first step towards an overall settlement. A key issue in the set of proposals was the opening of the fenced area of Famagusta to resettlement by its original inhabitants. The area would be placed under UN administration and the owners of property there could obtain possession of their assets. Both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots would be able to enter the area freely and intercommunal contact and trade would be encouraged. The proposal was accepted by the Greek Cypriot side from the outset but the Turkish Cypriot side failed to give a positive response.

In his April 4 1994 report to the Security Council, the UN Secretary-General noted that «the Turkish Cypriot side had not provided the response necessary to make an agreement on the implementation of the confidence-building measures possible».

The Security Council reviewed the situation and in a letter to the UN Secretary-General (dated 11 April 1994) underlined «the need to conclude an agreement on the implementation of the confidence-building measures».

In August 1994 Turkish Cypriot intransigence culminated with a decision of the illegal «Assembly» in occupied Cyprus to abandon federation as a sole form of settlement in Cyprus. This decision is in gross violation of the high-level agreements signed by the Turkish Cypriots in 1977 and 1979 as well as all the UN resolutions.

Furthermore in August 1995 the illegal regime also decided to distribute title deeds of Greek Cypriot property to the Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers.

In an effort to break the deadlock, which had been brought about as a result of Turkish intransigence the office of the US, President announced in January 1996 a new American initiative for the solution of the Cyprus problem through the re-commencement of negotiations between the two sides.

These efforts were continued throughout 1997 by the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan. As a result two rounds of face-to-face talks were held between President Clerides and Mr Denktash in Troutbeck near New York (9-13 July) and Glion-sur-Montreux in Switzerland (11-15 August).

During the first round no progress was made on the substance of the Cyprus problem and during the second round there were neither negotiations nor progress as Mr Denktash adopted a completely negative attitude.

On 29 June 1998 two resolutions were adopted by the UN Security Council 1178 and 1179 (1998) which reaffirmed all previous resolutions and called for the withdrawal of non-Cypriot forces as described in the set of ideas, stressing the importance of eventual demilitarisation of the Republic of Cyprus as an objective in the context of an overall comprehensive settlement. Since 1974, 74 resolutions have been adopted by the UN Security Council and 13 by the UN General Assembly, calling inter alia for the return of the refugees to their homes and properties. These resolutions are being flagrantly violated by Turkey.

One would assume that in view of all these international resolutions the town would have been returned to its people long ago. Yet, twenty-four years after its capture, it remains a «ghost town». The people of Famagusta, like all other Greek Cypriot refugees, have a burning desire to return. It is their town. Thirty-six centuries of their history is there.

Ancient Copper Mining in Cyprus

(Extracts from an article by Dr George Constantinou, Director of the Geological Survey Department.

From "Cyprus, Copper and the Sea", edited by Anna Marangou.

Publication accompanying the Cyprus exhibition at the 1992 Seville Universal Exhibition EXPO '92)

In antiquity Cyprus was for many centuries the biggest copper producer in the then known world and its mining industry lasted longer than all others.

Although today Cyprus is no longer believed to be the place of origin for the discovery of copper, nevertheless, it is generally agreed that it was one of the most important sources of this metal for the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean throughout antiquity.

The island produced copper since the Chalcolithic period but it emerged as the biggest producer and exporter of copper throughout the second millennium BC.

Therefore it is no surprise that Cyprus and copper were synonymous.

This was the result of the early discovery, by the ancient Cypriot miners through deep shafts and adits that very rich copper sulphide zones existed immediately beneath the colourful gossans that cap all the copper ore bodies.

This discovery by itself would have been of little use had it not been accompanied by the development of methods for extracting the copper from its copper sulphide ores.

In this the ancient Cypriots were pioneers. Good fluxing materials close to the mines and an ample source of energy from the surrounding forest helped the Cypriot metallurgist to refine the pyrometallurgical treatment and to maximise metal extraction from the ore.

As copper and bronze (copper-tin alloy) replaced stone for the manufacture of tools, implements, weapons and ornaments during the second millennium BC, the Cypriot miner and metallurgist ventured far in search for tin, a metal found in the Iberian Peninsula within the Mediterranean realm. In this way the Cypriot deep-mining and copper-extraction technologies were spread around the Mediterranean countries as far as Spain.

Copper production and export reached a peak in the late 14th and early 13th centuries BC when the Cypriot hallmark, the oxide ingot, was to be found in quantity in the Aegean, mainland Greece and further west. The wealth this trade produced made possible the import of luxury and other goods as evidenced by the discovery in Cyprus of abundant Mycenean pottery and of items made of gold, silver and ivory dated to this period.

The importance of copper as a strategic material declined after the discovery of iron. However, after the Trojan War and the defeat of the Myceneans by the Dorians there was an influx of Mycenaean refugees to the island. The Mycenaean%26rsquo;s gradually Hellenised the island and continued the mining of copper. Copper production and trading were active in Classical, Hellenistic and Roman times and ceased only after the decline of the Roman Empire. Evidence for the time span of these operations is provided by the pottery found at various levels of the slag heaps as well as by carbon fourteen dating of charcoal from the slag and of timber from the galleries in the mines.

While numerous historical references and the archaeological evidence available leave no doubt that Cyprus in ancient times was one of the most important copper producing centres in the world, there are, however, few descriptions of the exploration, mining and smelting methods used in antiquity. The only detailed description was that given by Galen, the famous doctor of Roman times, who came to Cyprus in 162 AD for the supply of mineral salts and visited the mines of Soli (Skouriotissa).

On the other hand, the many ancient workings and the tools which were found by the geologists and mining engineers during the reopening of the mines after 1920 supply significant information on the various aspects of ancient mining activity in Cyprus.

The ancients, in their search for sulphide ores, were definitely guided by the gossans. There is no gossan or iron staining in Cyprus, which was not explored and tested during this period.

In all of the modern mines, the ancient working shafts and galleries which were encountered started from the gossans on the surface and ended in the lower parts of the sulphide ore bodies, in some cases down to considerable depths. Because of the nature of the rock the shafts and galleries in the gossans are not supported by timber, whereas in the ore, because of its more friable and unstable nature, timber supports were used extensively.

After abandonment this timber was submerged and preserved well by the copper sulphate-rich mine water. In many cases where the timber was rich in pine resin the wood became impregnated with native copper as a result of the reduction of copper sulphate by the resin. This timber was found during the reopening of these mines and was used extensively by the mining engineers for making home furniture.

Extensive dating of timber, wood, ropes and baskets from all the ancient mines of Cyprus suggests that by far the greater part of the mining activity was pre-Roman.

The mining engineers who worked in the reopening of the mines at the beginning of this century have given descriptions of the methods used by the ancients for mining the ore. They have presented plans and photographs showing the shape and site of galleries, shafts and adits and described all the methods employed for timber support. Recorded mining tools include ladders, ropes, hand windlasses, wedges, nails, baskets, shovels and oil lamps.

The picture that emerged is that of a thorough and carefully planned operation with mining, in some cases, reaching down to 185 metres below the surface.

An important factor, limiting the extent of the ancient mining activities, was the level of the water table in individual mines. The level of the water table in each mine was controlled by its stratigraphy, geology and structure. No traces of any water pumps were found in any of the mines.

The most convincing evidence for the extent of copper mining operations in antiquity are the 40 slag heaps found scattered on the pillow lavas around the Troodos Ophiolite. This slag is the waste product from the smelting of copper sulphide ores, which lasted for more that 3,500 years and produced more than 200,000 tons of copper metal. More that two millions tons of slag were found in the Skouriotissa area and 750,000 tons at Kalavasos.

A characteristic of the ancient slag heaps of Cyprus is that they rarely contain any remnants of furnaces. At various levels in these heaps stones used for the crushing of sulphide ore and for lining the furnaces were found. The stones were cobbles and boulders from the rivers and were carefully selected to have the proper mineralogy, texture and chemical composition to serve the purpose.

A comparison between the chemical composition of typical massive sulphide ores and ancient slag from Cyprus clearly suggests that in the smelting process the metallurgists mixed the ore with silica and manganese-bearing rocks. The function of silica and manganese oxide in metallurgical operations is to lower the melting point and regulate the viscosity of the melt.

The most probable source of manganese oxide was the umbers that have a high manganese and iron oxi-hydroxide content. The addition of umber is also deduced from the considerable increase of nickel in the slag compared to that in massive sulphide ores. Umber is very common in Cyprus and is found in the vicinity of most of the mines.

The most probable source of the silica used in smelting were areas of extreme leaching of gossans and areas of bleached lava. In both cases the metals were removed from the rock by acid waters produced from the oxidation of the nearby sulphide ores. As the leaching and bleaching proceeds, the rock is enriched in cryptocrystalline opaline silica. This silica has a lower melting point than normal quartz. It is soft and friable and can be easily mined.

Smelting of copper sulphide ores to produce metallic copper is more difficult and complicated than the smelting of oxide ores. The sulphide ores are first roasted to remove the sulphur, which escapes into the atmosphere. The roasted ore is then crushed, mixed with fluxes and charcoal and smelted in a furnace.

The flux is used to lower the melting point and the viscosity of the unwanted residues of the ore, making easier the separation of the metal from the slag. The melting point of copper is lower and its specific gravity higher, thus it precipitates at the bottom of the furnace whereas the slag floats on top.

The copper produced was further purified by a second smelting procedure in a crucible. The purified copper was cast near the furnace in a pit of clay mould in the form of oxide ingots. The ingots were transported from the mines to the major trading centres of the island from where they were either exported or were further processed to produce copper artefacts, tools, implements and weapons for local use and export.

Most of the copper produced in Cyprus was intended for export. The copper metal was traded around the Mediterranean countries in a standard shape, size and weight. The shape was that of a dry oxide roughly 60 by 45 centimetres and about 4 centimetres thick, with a common weight of 29 kg.

Such oxide ingots were found in many Mediterranean countries including the coast of Palestine, Cyprus, in two shipwrecks at Cape Caledonia and Cape Ulu Burum along the southern coast of Asia Minor north of Cyprus, in Crete, Sardinia, Greece, Italy and in the Black Sea off the coast Bulgaria.

The oxide ingots are often depicted in different forms of art, with the Egyptian wall painting offering the greatest number of illustrations. There are also some seals and bronze tripod stands depicting ingots or ingot bearers.

The source of the copper of these oxide ingots has been a matter of considerable debate. Recently a number of oxide ingots were studied with lead isotope and trace element analyses. The lead isotope method is based on the observation that the isotopic composition of lead in the source ores remains unchanged by chemical and metallurgical processes. Thus this method enables scientists to compare copper ores, oxide ingots produced from these ores as well as bronze artefacts, which would have the same "fingerprints%26rdquo; if they came from the same source. Both this method as well as the trace element analyses have identified a distinct Cypriot source and a second one as yet not conclusively defined.

It is extremely difficult to visualise how such large quantities of copper could be produced bearing in mind the volume of wood required. There is no evidence to show that wood or charcoal were imported for the mining industry. On the contrary there is textual evidence for the exporting of wood to Egypt. Furthermore large quantities of wood were exported from the island in the form of ships from a then flourishing shipbuilding industry. Therefore the only source of energy for copper extraction came from the forests of Cyprus.

An indication of the devastating effects this had on the forests of Cyprus is given by the following data. About 300 kg of charcoal are necessary for the extraction of 1 kg of copper metal from cupriferous sulphide ores. According to the Forestry Department of Cyprus, a pine tree 80-100 years old yields 1 cubic metre or 800 kg of wood. For the production of 1 ton of charcoal, using efficient kilns, 12 cubic metres of wood are necessary, whereas with primitive and less efficient kilns 20 cubic metres of wood are required. The average production of a hectare of forestland in Cyprus is 80 cubic metres of pinewood.

Based on this data it is estimated that for the production of 200,000 tons of metallic copper, 1,200,000,000 cubic metres of pinewood or 60,000,000 tons of charcoal were used. For the production of this wood or charcoal 150,000 square kilometres of forestland were destroyed. Considering that the total surface area of Cyprus is only 9,300 square kilometres, it is probable that the forests of Cyprus were destroyed at least 16 times to produce the energy, which was necessary for the copper mining industry.

The Cartography of Cyprus Through the Ages

(by Dr Andreas Hadjipaschalis, President of the Map Collectors Society of Cyprus.

From "Cyprus, Copper and the Sea", edited by Anna Marangou.

Publication accompanying the Cyprus exhibition at the 1992 Seville Universal Exhibition EXPO '92)

The earliest surviving reference to a map in western literature includes Cyprus and occurs in Herodotus' history. In about 500 BC Aristagoras, the tyrant of Miletus, showed a meal table tablet to the Spartans depicting "the territories of the Ionians, Lydians, Cappadocians and Cilicians and then enumerated the adjacent seas and indicated the island of Cyprus and finally Susa," the seat of the kings of Persia.

The next Greek to put Cyprus on the map, so to speak, was Strabo (64 BC - 21 AD), who was very knowledgeable about Cyprus. In fact one may presume that he personally toured the island - following his final remarks on the description of Asia Minor, he notes: "We will now tour Cyprus, which is just to the south of this peninsula".

He then goes on to describe in detail the position of Cyprus and the distances between various towns and their relevant position on "a map". It must be supposed that he constructed one along with a world map, as he makes a note to that effect in his Geography.

For the Romans, and their quest for supremacy of the then known world, Cyprus was a must. This is why it features prominently, and out of all proportion, on their map, known to us as the "Peutinger map". It occupies the whole of the eastern Mediterranean between Asia Minor and Egypt.

Claudius Ptolemy

The first man to give a reasonable shape to the geographical features of Cyprus, and for that matter to the whole world was Claudius Ptolemaeus, known as Ptolemy. This great Greek geographer lived during the 2nd century AD in and around Alexandria.

The manuscripts of Ptolemy's "Geographia", which are still preserved in libraries today, are from copies of manuscripts that survived due to the diligence of Byzantine scholars. These manuscripts maps fall into two groups. One version, the A-group, consists of a world map and 26 regional maps - 10 for Europe, 4 for Africa and 12 for Asia. It is this set which accompanies the Latin translations made in the 15th century, and used for the earliest printed editions. Cyprus is shown on the map of the fourth part of Asia, which also includes Syria and Palestine.

The second version of the Geographia, the B-group, contained 64 detailed maps of smaller areas. Because of its important position in the eastern Mediterranean and the Greek world in general, Cyprus was depicted separately as one of the 64 areas of the B-group.

By the end of the 15th century, Ptolemy could not fully satisfy the demands of Renaissance scholars. For this reason new maps, known as tabulae novae, started to appear, together with the old ones in the Geographia, displaying new knowledge.

The first printed tabulae novae for Cyprus appeared on the map of Asia Minor in the Strasbourg edition of 1513. Cyprus' shape and contents are a departure from the Ptolemaic tradition. It is obvious that the cartographer, the famous Martin Waldsemuller, used the Portolan charts of his period as his sources for Cyprus. The next development in the Cyprus tabulae novae series does not appear until several editions later, when the other great cartographer, Giacomo Gastaldi, engraved the maps for the 1548 Geographia edition, and Girolamo Ruscelli edited the edition of 1561 in Venice. These tabulae novae display new knowledge based on Venetian prototypes but owing to the reduced scale, the contents are minimal.

However, the real development in tabulae novae in the editions of Ptolemy comes with the edition of 1596 by Antonio Magini in Venice. Cyprus is given special treatment by Magini and is depicted entirely on its own. It is based on the important map of Cyprus by the Dutch cartographer Ortelius (1573) and referred to in greater detail later.

The Middle Ages

Cyprus does not feature prominently on the Mappae Mundi (the world maps) of the Middle Ages. There was not much naval travelling or campaigning to be done during the Middle Ages, so Cyprus was just a blob on the world map.

As far as Cyprus is concerned, however, a most important source of information on navigation and charting is the Byzantine Stadiasmos or Periplus. Even more important are the portolan charts on which Cyprus featured prominently because of the existing links between Cyprus, Venice and Genoa during the 14th century. There is no reason to believe that contemporary chart-makers, or people acting as informants to the Venetian or Genoese chart-makers, actually visited and stayed in Cyprus during this period of portolan chart development.

Cyprus, as drawn in the portolan charts, is certainly not the haphazard affair displayed in the medieval Mappae Mundi. The oldest portolan chart existing today, the late 13th century Carte Pisane, gives reasonable representation of Cyprus, especially of the southern coastline. As regards place names, the Carte Pisane includes 11, which gradually increase to 24 in the early 15th century Venetian charts.

The next development in the mapping of Cyprus comes in the isolaria, which were the successors to the portolan charts. The first isolario to contain a map of Cyprus was published in manuscript form by Bartolomeo dalli Sonetti in c.1480. The island of Cyprus is presented by itself with the most up-to-date shape and contains a multitude of new medieval place names (62 to be exact), including some inland ones. Soon after (c.1485) printed editions of the same work appeared. Although we have no direct evidence that dalli Sonetti himself charted Cyprus, we do have a great deal of circumstantial evidence to suggest that he was actually on board the Venetian trireme Loredana which, in 1458, on one of its regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem, stopped in Cyprus where several of its passengers met members of the High Court in Nicosia, the capital.

Bartolomeo dalli Sonetti's map of 1480 signified the renaissance of Cyprus cartography and was the crowning achievement of the gradual development of the sea-chart over several centuries during the Middle Ages.

The 16th century

During the 16th century, several other isolaria were also published. Among those that include a map of Cyprus are Benedetto Bordone's isolario, published in Venice in 1528, and later, Camocio's, Donato Bertelli's and S. Pinargenti's, also published in Venice during the 1570's. Tomasso Porcacci's "Isole piu famose del Mondo" was printed in Venice in 1572 and republished on subsequent occasions. These isolaria are not notable for any original work as far as Cyprus is concerned.

Because the Venetians were in possession of the island between 1489 and 1571, Cyprus cartography was monopolised by the Venetians during the 16th century so it is not surprising that the next important and valuable map of Cyprus came from the hands of the well-known Venetian cartographer, Matheo Pagano. Working on woodblocks, as was his custom, Pagano published the most up-to-date map of Cyprus in 1538.

The Cypriot chronicler Florio Boustron left a manuscript map of Cyprus c.1560 accompanying his Chronicle. The map is an important one as it introduces a new shape and is the first to show the medieval administrative districts of Cyprus. Nicosia appears for the first time on this map with its Greek name Lefkosia. The Cypriot historian Steffano Lusignano's map of 1575/6 cannot, however, claim any originality.

In the mid-16th century there was great activity in the production and publication of loose-sheet maps of Cyprus as well as other parts of the world, the main centres being Venice and Rome. Cyprus maps of this type are those by F. Bertelli 1562, G. Calapoda Cretensis 1566 (he copies M. Pagano), C. Duchetti, N. Nelli and A. Lafreri, 1570. Paolo Forlani and Bonifacio Sibenisensis also published maps of Cyprus in Venice in 1570, adding the medieval administrative districts of Cyprus. The most significant loose-sheet map was, however, published by Jacomo Franco c.1570, again in Venice.

Other loose-sheet maps and plans of the period, mostly produced in Germany, were also published as a means of news distribution. These loose sheets were reissued sometimes 2 or 3 times in a year with the latest information added on the map each time. Such maps are those by M. Zundt, B. Jenichen and H. Rogel, who published maps of Cyprus to show the invasion of Cyprus by the Turks and the subsequent defeat of the Venetians in 1570/1. Camocio, Bertelli and Pinargenti published similar plans but theirs have survived in greater numbers as they were preserved, bound-up, in their respective isolaria.

The Byzantine Art of Cyprus

By Marina Ieronymides, Department of Antiquities

(From "Cyprus, Copper and the Sea", edited by Anna Marangou.

Publication accompanying the Cyprus exhibition at the 1992 Seville Universal Exhibition EXPO '92)

The island of Cyprus which, through the preaching of the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, embraced Christianity as early as AD 47 or 49, still has a large number of early Christian and Byzantine monuments.

Byzantine art in Cyprus can be divided into six periods:

1. The Early Christian period, which began in the 4th century AD and ended in the 7th century AD when the Arab raids started.

2. The period of the Arab raids, from 649 AD to 965 AD.

3. The Middle Byzantine period, which extended from 965 AD to the end of the 12th century.

4. The Frankish period with the Lusignan Kings, from 1192 to 1489.

5. The Venetian period, from 1489 to 1570

6. The Ottoman period, from 1570 to 1878.

The earliest undisputed recordings of Christian monuments on the island can be dated to the 4th century. Unfortunately, the monuments from this early period are in ruins. Archaeological excavations have brought to light important basilicas in Salamis, Kourion, Paphos, Ayios Yeorgios near Peyia, Lambousa and Ayia Trias at Yialousa, to mention but a few.

These first basilicas in Cyprus were all timber-roofed, and their naves were higher than the lateral aisles. There was a protruding semicircular apse to the east, and a narthex, with an atrium, to the west. The architecture of these early Cypriot basilicas resembles the architecture of Constantinople, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. All these basilicas have preserved some of their decoration, which consisted mainly of mosaic pavements or wall mosaics, usually decorating their apses.

Until recently there were still in existence three mural mosaics decorating the apses of three basilicas, which were incorporated in later churches of the Middle Byzantine period. These were inside the churches of Panayia Kanakaria at Lythrangomi and Panayia Kyra near Livadhia, both in the Famagusta district of the now Turkish -occupied part of the island, and Panayia Angeloktistos at Kiti, in the Larnaca district. All these mural mosaics can be dated to the 6th century because of the artistic resemblance they bear to the Ravenna mosaics and those of Mount Sinai. Unfortunately, only one of them is still surviving in situ. The mural mosaics decorating the apse of the church of Panayia Kanakaria were removed by the Turks in 1979 and sold in the USA and Europe, whilst those decorating the apse of the church of Panayia Kyra were totally destroyed by the Turks a little after 1979.

More recently the decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit confirmed the verdict of the US District Court of Indianapolis Division that the four fragments of the 6th century apse mosaics of Kanakaria must be returned to their rightful owner, the Church of Cyprus. In fact these fragments have been returned.

The iconographic theme of all three mosaics is of the Virgin and Child. The Virgin in the church of Panayia Kanakaria was depicted seated on a throne, holding the Christ Child on her knees and with the two Archangels Michael and Gabriel. The whole composition was framed by a series of medallions and the busts of the Apostles. In the church of Panayia Kyra, the Virgin was represented standing as Orant, with her hands raised, in prayer. In Panayia Angeloktistos at Kiti the only one of the 6 to survive in situ, the Virgin is standing between the two Archangels, holding the Child in her left hand. The whole composition is framed with a decorative frieze consisting of plants, birds, deer and fountains. Also dating back to the 6th century is a unique wall painting found in the underground holy water cistern of Nicodemos at Salamis. Here the head of Christ is represented above a Nilotic landscape with aquatic plants and birds.

Still in existence from this period are some fine objects crafted in gold and silver, which are of great artistic importance. In addition to jewellery exhibited in museums all over Europe and the US, there is the treasure of Lambousa with nine silver plates, dating from the 7th century, which depict scenes from the life of David. These objects are currently exhibited in the Cyprus Museum, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

The magnificent wall mosaics of the churches of Panayia Kanakaria, Panayia Kyra and Panayia Angeloktistos, together with the treasure of Lambousa, show the wealth and prosperity of the island of Cyprus during the 6th and 7th centuries and its close relations with Constantinople.

During the period of the Arab raids (649 - 965 AD), Byzantine art in Cyprus suffered greatly, since many churches and their decorations were destroyed and many art objects, such as ecclesiastical utensils, gospels etc., disappeared. Though destruction was great, artistic activity never ceased during this period, and there were new developments in architecture. Vaulted basilicas appeared as a result of the Arab raids and were erected on the ruins of earlier timber-roofed buildings. Examples of such vaulted basilicas are those of Aphendrika and Sykada in Karpasia, and Ayia Varvara near Korovia. At the end of this period, multi-domed churches such as those of Ayia Paraskevi in Yeroskipou, Ayios Epiphanios in Salamis, Ayios Lazaros in Larnaca and Apostolos Varnavas, were erected. During the Iconoclastic period (730-843 AD), not only did Cyprus not suffer, it also became a refuge for the defenders of the icons. Those from the chapel of Ayia Mavri at Chrysocava in the Kyrenia district of the 9th/10th centuries are of great importance to the study of wall paintings.

With the end of the Arab raids, and the re-incorporation of the island into the Byzantine Empire, art in Cyprus, in its third mid-Byzantine period, flourished, especially the art of wall painting. The reason for this was that, due to its geographical position, Cyprus was of strategic importance, and many important and well-educated generals were sent there from Constantinople as administrators. These generals and high officials employed craftsmen and artists from Constantinople, then the largest cultural centre of the Byzantine Empire, in order to build and decorate churches and monasteries. This is why the art of painting in Cyprus during the 11th and 12th centuries reflects that of Constantinople.

The earliest wall paintings of this period are those of the 10th century, preserved in the church of Ayios Antonios at Kellia in the Larnaca district, and those of the 11th century, in the Church of Ayios Nikolaos tis Stegis near Kakopetria. Some excellent 12th century examples can be seen in the church of Asinou dated precisely to 1105/6, and also in the church of Panayia at Trikomo, all the work of the same painter. Of equal importance are the 12th century examples decorating the chapel of Ayia Trias in the monastery of Ayios Ioannis Chrysostomos near Koutsovendi, and the paintings in the Church of Panayia Apsinthiotissa, both in the occupied northern part of the island, and some of the paintings in the church of Ayia Anna at Kalliana. Late in the 12th century, Cyprus produced some examples, which rank amongst the best contemporary murals of the Byzantine world. It may be said that these paintings bear the stamp of the Comnenian art of Constantinople. The most important paintings of the late 12th century are those decorating the bema and the cell of the Engleistra of Ayios Neophytos in the Paphos district, painted by Theodoros Apseudes in 1183, those in the church of Panayia tou Araka at Lagoudera dated 1192 and believed to be by the same painter, the paintings in the church of Antiphonitis near Kalogrea, those in the church of Archangelos at Kato Lefkara, in the church of Timios Stavros at Pelendri and the ones in the church of Ayioi Apostoloi at Pera Chorio.

The 12th century is considered to be the Golden Age of Byzantine painting in Cyprus. However, this should not be applied only to the art of monumental painting, but also to that of icon painting, as the same influence from Constantinople, the great artistic centre of that time, is also evident in this particular art form. The best specimens of 12th century Cypriot icons are those of Ayios Ioannis Prodromos from Asinou, that of Christ and that of Panayia tou Araka; all three are exhibited in the Byzantine Museum of the Cultural Centre of Archbishop Makarios III in Nicosia. Of equal importance are those of Christ and Panayia in the Monastery of Ayios Neophytos in the Paphos region.

There are very few icons prior to the 12th century, which have survived. This is mainly due to the destruction caused by the Arab raids. The earliest known icon in Cyprus dates to the 8th or 9th century, and is a small panel of the Virgin with her hands raised in prayer, having on her chest the Christ Child in a medallion. Other icons, though these are much damaged, are Ayios Cosmas and Damianos of the 10th century, and a fragment with the figures of three apostles or saints from a large composition datable to the 11th century; all three are exhibited in the Byzantine Museum in Nicosia.

During the mid-Byzantine period, new architectural forms appeared used in conjunction with the architecture of the vaulted basilicas. These new forms are the cruciform, the cross in square, the single-aisled with arched recesses in the sidewalls and the octagonal domed style. All are characterised by their simplicity and small dimensions. From this same period an illuminated manuscript, the Gospel of Eptakomi, has survived.

With the establishment of the Frankish Kingdom of Cyprus in 1192, and during the whole of this fourth period, which ends in 1489, the close relations, which existed, between the island and Constantinople diminished, although contacts with the Byzantine Empire, Asia Minor in particular, continued. this is why there is a certain individuality in the art of painting during this period. While there are important specimens in existence, which are directly influenced by the last phase of Byzantine painting, that of the Palaelogean Renaissance, there are also works with eastern influence and some with western elements, brought to the island by the Crusaders. Examples of murals directly influenced by Palaeologean art are some of those decorating the church of Ayios Antonios at Kellia, the church of Timios Stavros at Pelendri, and the Church of Stavros at Anoyira. Influences from the art of the Crusaders can be seen in the wall paintings of the church of Panayia at Moutoullas, dated by an inscription to 1280. However, a certain individuality may be detected in the wall paintings of the church of Ayios Demetianos at Dali also dated by an inscription to 1317, and the central part and narthex of the church of Asinou, dated to 1332/3.

During the late 13th and the 14th centuries, contacts with Constantinople were revived, and influence of the art of the metropolis is reflected in icon painting. Two such specimens are the tall oblong icon of Christ Pantocrator with Archangels and donors, bearing the date 1356, and the icon of Elkomenos from the church of Timios Stavros at Pelendri, dated to the early 13th century.

The architecture of this period marked the appearance of a new style, that of the steep-pitched wooden roofed churches covered with flat hooked tiles, found only in the central Troodos mountain range. However, earlier architectural styles introduced during the mid-Byzantine period were still used throughout this time.

During the 15th century a new architectural style appeared on the island; the Franco-Byzantine style, which was a combination of Byzantine and Gothic elements. The most important example is the ruined church of Ayios Yeorgios of the Greeks in Famagusta. Others are the church of Panayia Odegetria (Bedestan) in Nicosia, and the church of Ayios Mamas at Ayios Sozomenos.

Late in the 15th and during the 16th century the Cypriot School of painting came into being. This was a combination of the Byzantine tradition brought to the island by refugees in the wake of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the Italian Renaissance, introduced by the many Cypriots who had studied painting in Italy. The most important examples are those in the churches of Ayios Mamas at Louvaras (1495), Stavros tou Ayiasmati (1494). Archangelos at Pedoulas(1474), Ayia Christina at Askas, the Latin Chapel in Ayios Ioannis Lampadistis at Kalopanayiotis (c.1500), and Panayia Podithou at Galata (1502).

The most important icons painted during this Venetian period are those of the "Great Deisis" and the Dodecaorton in the Katholikon of the monastery of Ayios Neophytos in the Paphos district, painted by the Cypriot painter Iosiph Khouris.

During the last period, starting in 1570 with the occupation of the island by the Ottoman Empire, the decline in the cultural life of Cyprus in general becomes evident. Architecture, monumental art and icon painting were not spared. Many Cypriot painters left Cyprus to work abroad, and the icons of this period are few and of a lesser quality. A further decline in icon painting came in the 18th century with the arrival of the Cretan painter, Ioannis Kornaros with his "baroque" thrones and strange faces and colours. he created a school on the island, which continued until the end of the 19th century.

The same decline can be seen in the wall paintings, which are also sparse. There are some wall paintings in the church of the Transfiguration of Christ at Palaichori, and the church of Prodromos at Askas. During the 18th century there was a short revival of monumental painting. examples of this can be seen in the cathedral of Ayios Ioannis in Nicosia, and the church of Ayios Yeorgios of Arpera at Tersephanou in the Larnaca district.

The Ottoman period marks the end of the Byzantine art of Cyprus.

The Case of the Kanakaria Mosaics

In 1989 the government of Cyprus took an American art dealer to court for the return of four rare 6th century Byzantine mosaics.

The mosaics, part of a larger mosaic from the apse of the church of Panayia Kanakaria in the village of Lythrangomi, depicting the apostles, the virgin Mary, Christ as a child, and the archangels, were believed to have been stolen from the church in around 1976, two years after Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third of the island, where the church is situated.

The village and the Kanakaria church were untouched by the invading forces in 1974 and the Greek villagers found themselves enclaved by the Turkish army. The pastor and priests of the church continued for two years to conduct religious services for those who remained until they were all forced to flee to the free areas in the summer of 1976. When the priests left the church the mosaics were intact.

In the late 70's, however, the Church of Cyprus officials received increasing reports that churches and monuments in the occupied area were being attacked and vandalised, their contents stolen or destroyed. In November 1979 a resident of northern Cyprus brought word to the Cyprus Department of Antiquities that the Kanakaria church had been plundered and everything of value removed. The mosaic itself had been ripped from the apse. On hearing this news the Cyprus government sought assistance from many international organisations and individuals in an attempt to recover them.

Cyprus learned the whereabouts of the mosaics ten years later when an Indianapolis art dealer, Peg Goldberg, offered them to the J. Paul Getty museum in Malibu, California, for $20 million. The museum's curator contacted authorities in Cyprus. The Republic of Cyprus and the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus sued Goldberg and her art dealership, Goldberg and Feldman Fine Arts of Carmel, Indianapolis, to recover the mosaics. The trial began on 30 May 1989 and lasted six days.

The trial attracted widespread international attention because of the rarity and importance of the mosaics. Each about two feet square and composed of hundreds of jewel-like bits of glass, marble and stone, the mosaics are among the very few such works to survive an eighth century edict by the Emperor of Byzantium to destroy all images of sacred figures. They depict Christ as a young boy, the apostles Matthew and James and an archangel.

Cyprus won the case. US District Judge James E. Noland ruled that the mosaics were the property of the Church of Cyprus and that Goldberg must return them. In his 86 page ruling Noland said Goldberg had never obtained good title to the mosaics and had no right to possess them. He also ruled that Goldberg did not make a thorough attempt to learn whether the artwork was stolen.

Ms Goldberg had bought the mosaics for $1.1 million in July 1988 after hearing about them on a trip to Amsterdam from a well-known dealer called Michael van Rijn, and later viewing them at a Swiss airport. She purchased the mosaics from Aydin Dikman, a Turk living in Germany, who claimed he was a former archaeologist for the self-proclaimed "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus", which was set up in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus but which no country in the world other than Turkey recognises. Court records showed he was linked to several art thefts from Cyprus.

"Evidence of theft and the chain of possession under the facts of this case lead only to the conclusion that Goldberg came into possession of stolen property", Judge Noland said in his ruling.

The decision was hailed at the time as opening the way for recovering stolen archaeological treasures worldwide. The mosaics were eventually repatriated and are now on display in the Byzantine Museum in Nicosia.

For Cyprus, however, the case of the Kanakaria mosaics is just one instance among many in its fight to recover the many archaeological and cultural treasures that have disappeared from the occupied part of Cyprus, ever since Turkey invaded the island in 1974. On the rare occasions that these have resurfaced as stolen goods on the international market in antiquities, the Cyprus government has found itself on numerous occasions in the position of having to buy back its own national heritage.

The Stolen Art Treasures of Cyprus

Precious Byzantine artefacts looted from the northern part of Cyprus, an area occupied by Turkey since it invaded the island in 1974, have been uncovered in Germany (October 1997).

The stash consisted of mosaics, frescoes and icons dating back to the 6th, 12th and 15th centuries, is believed to be worth about 46 million dollars.

The mosaics, depicting Saints Thaddeus and Thomas, come from the 6th century Church of Panayia Kanakaria in the village of Lythrangomi and are some of the rarest and oldest surviving examples of Byzantine art.

The frescoes, including the Last Judgement and the Tree of Jesse, were taken off the north and south walls of the Monastery of Antiphonitis, built between the 12th and 15th centuries.

Several boxes and suitcases filled with stolen Cypriot works of art were found hidden in fake walls, ceilings and floors of two Munich apartments belonging to a Turk, Aydin Dikmen, after a raid by German police. The raid was the culmination of an eight month operation involving a controversial Dutch art dealer, Michel van Rijn, who cooperated with Cyprus' Honorary Consul to The Hague, Tasoula Hadjitofi, and Cypriot security services.

Aydin, who claims to be an archaeologist, is believed to have been selling stolen artefacts from Cyprus on the black market for years. He was arrested and faces charges of trading in stolen artefacts, an offence which carries a 15 year sentence.

Over the years since the Turkish invasion, the Cyprus government has been keeping a watchful eye on the international art market in case any looted artefacts from the occupied area should surface. In its fight to recover its archaeological and cultural heritage that have disappeared from the occupied area, it has found itself on numerous occasions in the position of having to buy back its own art treasures.

The name of Aydin Dikmen has come up repeatedly in connection with countless illegal art deals, often linked with that of van Rijn, who wrote a book revealing his shady dealings and the two men's collaboration.

In 1988 Dikmen together with Van Rijn, had been involved in the sale of four mosaics from the church of Kanakaria to Peg Goldberg, an American art dealer. When Goldberg then offered to sell the mosaics to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, specialist Dr Marion True recognised them as looted property and alerted the Cyprus authorities. In the trial that followed, Goldberg was forced to return the mosaics to their true owner, the Church of Cyprus.

Previously Dikmen was responsible for selling frescoes stolen from the chapel of Ayios Themonianos in the village of Lysi, to a wealthy American patron of the arts, Ms Dominique de Menil. She had them restored and housed in a specially built chapel museum in Houston, Texas, after turning over ownership of the frescoes to the Church of Cyprus. Archbishop Chrysostomos, Head of the Church of Cyprus, agreed with Ms de Menil's desire to keep the frescoes on loan and have them displayed in the chapel museum, as their original chapel is still under Turkish occupation.

The fact that the Turk was finally caught is believed to have come about mainly as a result of his falling out with his Dutch accomplice.

Peter Watson, a reporter for the British newspaper, the Observer, who had befriended van Rijn, was allowed by him to witness much of the secret negotiations that led to Dikmen's arrest.

Writing in the paper on 19.10.97, Watson said: "The months of secret negotiations in Munich, The Hague and London leading to the recovery (of the treasures) showed the true colours of the art world".

Watson said that van Rijn admitted to him that he had been involved in countless illegal art deals worth tens of millions of dollars and that his association with Dikmen went back many years, but had fallen out with him after the Goldberg case. Supposedly wanting to make amends for a life of crime, van Rijn approached the Cypriot Consul in The Hague and offered to buy back her country's artefacts from Dikmen for about a million guilders (312.500 pounds), asking only expenses (70.000) for himself.

Using intermediaries because his old partner refused to deal with him, van Rijn negotiated the release of as many items as possible, until eventually the Cypriot Consul decided that the police should be brought in and the raid was organised.

The Kanakaria mosaics are by far the most precious objects looted from Cyprus after the invasion. The composition of the apse, where the mosaics were located, was of an enthroned Virgin and Child between archangels. Their central composition was framed by medallions in mosaic of the 12 apostles. Two of the apostles - Bartholomew and Luke - were bought back in the Eighties, another two together with an archangel and Christ were retrieved through the courts after the Goldberg case, and now two more have returned. The mosaics formed part of an apse and were curved. Since being looted, they have been flattened, destroying one of the things that made them unique.

All these frescoes and mosaics have a special archaeological significance, particularly the Kanakaria mosaics, in that they are among the few surviving examples of early Byzantine art in the entire Orthodox Church. They survived the great iconoclasm in the eighth century when so many Christian images were destroyed. The churches of Cyprus were too remote from Constantinople for the edict to be applied fully, making the mosaics some of the earliest surviving images of Jesus and the apostles.

The mosaics that have already returned to Cyprus are housed in the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation Museum in Nicosia where they will shortly be joined by the newly recovered treasures.

The Environment

The coastal area of Cyprus is indented and rocky in the north, with long sandy beaches in numerous coves, to the south. The north coastal plain, covered with olive and carob trees, is backed by the steep and narrow Pentadaktylos mountain limestone range, rising to a height of 3.300 feet. To the south and centre, the extensive mountain massif of Troodos, covered with pines, dwarf oaks, cypresses and cedars, culminate in the peak of Mount Olympus, 6.400 feet above sea level. Between the two ranges lies the fertile plain of Mesaoria.

The country's diverse geomorphology has allowed the development of a wide variety of habitats, ranging from a semi-alpine zone, on the top of Troodos, to coastal wetlands, and unique marquis-type forests which fringe a diverse coastline.

Cyprus is endowed with a rich fauna and flora. Its adequate isolation as an island has led to the evolution of many species, with a strong endemic flowering element. Being also surrounded by large continents, it incorporates botanological elements of the neighbouring landmasses.

The flora or the complement of indigenous plants, constitutes an outstanding biological and aesthetic natural heritage, with approximately 1.800 species and subspecies of flowering plants, 128 of them endemic.

Since the island rose above the sea, about 20 million years ago, Cyprus has always been an island, and the arrival of animals has been a subject of interest to zoologists. According to existing evidence, the first arrivals were hippopotami and elephants, both excellent swimmers. They appear to have initially arrived about one million years ago and, apart from some shrews and mice, they were the only land mammals roaming the island prior to man's arrival, about. 9.000 years ago. The present-day fauna of Cyprus includes some 7 species of land mammals, 26 species of amphibians and reptiles, 357 species of birds, and a great variety of insects and mites, while the coastal waters of the island give shelter to 197 fish species and to various species of crabs, sponges and echinodermata.

The largest wild animal that still lives on the island is the Cyprus moufflon (Ovis gmelini ophion), a rare type of wild sheep that can be found only in Cyprus. This rare endemic animal is strictly protected and its population has revived from near extinction, at the beginning of the century, to about 1.500 animals, at present.

The island is used by millions of birds during their migration from Europe to Africa and back again, a pilgrimage that has been observed since Homeric times, the main reason being the occurrence on the island of two coastal wetlands, with unique and international importance, i.e. the Larnaca and Akrotiri Salt Lakes. Of the numerous wild birds of Cyprus, birds of prey are the most fascinating and among them the Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonarae) and the Imperial Eagle (Aguilla heliaca) are the jewel of the crown.

From the sea creatures, such as seals and turtles, the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) breed regularly on the island's sandy beaches. A successful conservation project was launched in order to protect the Green and Loggerhead turtles. The programme, which includes a hatchery, is a model one in the Mediterranean. As far as seals are concerned, although they no longer breed in the coastal sea caves, occasional sightings have been reported. Seals, dolphins and turtles are protected under the Fisheries Law.

The setting up of National Parks and Nature Reserves is now receiving priority attention. There are six National Forest Parks, two at the coastal area (Liopetri and Cavo Greco), three around Nicosia and one at Troodos, and two Nature Reserves at Troodos, one (Tripilos), including the Cedar Valley.

Also worth mentioning is the work initiated for the preparation of the Ecological Chart of Cyprus. The basic objective of this effort is to survey, study and map all the basic characteristics and parameters of the natural, biological and cultural resources, to identify the pressures threatening them and to put forward suggestions and programmes for the protection and enhancement of the ecological and cultural endowment of the island.

Rapid economic development over the last three decades and the Turkish invasion of 1974 and the continuing occupation of 37% of the territory of the Republic by Turkish troops, have led to environmental pressures, particularly on the coastal zone. Environmental awareness, though overshadowed by the more pressing needs at various periods, has nevertheless led to an even stronger policy for the protection of the environment.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment is responsible for the rational management and sustainable use of natural resources as well as being the coordinating Ministry for the protection of the island's environment. The institutional framework for environmental management in Cyprus has at its apex the Council of Ministers, which has the overall responsibility for the formulation of environmental policy. It also includes the Council for the Protection of the Environment, chaired by the Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, the Environment Committee, which deals with the formulation and determination of environmental policy objectives and is chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, and the Environment Service.

The latter is the coordinating agency for government programmes for the protection of the environment; heads the technical committee on the environmental impact assessment of projects, advises on environmental policy, and is mandated to ensure the implementation of the environmental policy.

Cyprus has endorsed the principles of sustainable development and has undertaken a process to integrate environmental considerations in its economic and social development policy. In this process, the country is guided by the principles adopted at the Rio Conference and the European UnionÕs respective policies.

Among others, action has been taken in water use, water conservation, central sewerage systems and sewage treatment plants, reuse of treated effluent for irrigation, water development, water desalination, fertilizers and pesticides control, relocation of animal husbandry premises, control of groundwater pollution, good agricultural practices, air and water quality monitoring, industrial pollution control, industrial waste treatment, environmental impact assessment, protection of marine and riverine species, protection of wetlands, aquaculture management, holistic control of dangerous substances, combating sea and beach pollution, shoreline protection, cultural heritage preservation, environmental awareness and information, etc.

Several international conventions for the protection of the environment have been ratified by Cyprus, such as the Convention for the Conservation of the European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species, the convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution and its Protocols, the biodiversity Convention, the Global Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol on the Protection of the Ozone Layer.

In the field of national legislation, apart from the environmentally related provisions of the Forestry, Fisheries, Game and Wild Birds, Foreshore Protection and Town and Country Planning Laws, a number of environment - specific legal acts have entered into force over the last few years, in line with the relevant European Union legislation. These laws are the ones on the Control of Water Pollution, the Control of Atmospheric Pollution from Industrial Sources, Agrochemicals, and Pollution of Public Spaces.

One of the most important pieces of legislation on the environment currently prepared, is the Framework Law on the Environment and the Protection of Nature, which will cover, inter alia, the principles to guide all environment - related or specific legislation, the responsibilities within the framework for environmental protection, environmental fiscal instruments, the adoption of the polluter - pays - principle, environmental impact assessment, information, participation and research, the protection of flora, fauna, ecosystems and landscapes, the establishment and management of protected area, noise, reduction in waste generation, action in cases of emergency, waste treatment and recycling, hazardous waste, civil liability, compensation for damages to nature, etc.

An Environmental Review and Action Plan for Cyprus was prepared by the World Bank in 1993, whereas, in 1995, a comprehensive report was prepared by an interministerial committee, which compared the country%26rsquo;s environmental policy and legislation with those of the European Union and identified areas in need of harmonization. Based on the results of the above exercise and also by taking into account the conclusions of the Barbados and Tunis Conferences on the Sustainable Development of Small Island States and of Mediterranean Countries, respectively, an Action Plan for the Protection of the Environment was prepared, discussed by the Council for the Environment and approved by the Council of Ministers, in 1996. The Plan deals with horizontal integration issues such as fiscal instruments, information, research and participation and covers the following fields: general environmental policy, water protection and management, waste management, radiation, atmosphere, noise, chemicals, industrial accidents, biotechnology and protection of nature and wildlife.

Several major studies and projects were also undertaken, aiming at harmonization with the European Union's environmental policy, many of them financed by the EU. Such studies have covered the management of hazardous waste, the use of environmental fiscal instruments, the management of the Akamas Peninsula, rural sanitation, recycling of domestic solid waste, coastal protection, used machine oils, water resources supply and demand management, management of mining waste, integrated monitoring of surface waters, the establishment of a sub regional contingency plan for marine pollution incidents, etc.

Cyprus actively participates in regional and global environmental activities such as the Mediterranean Action Plan, the Council of Europe's environmental programmes, the environmental follow-up actions in the framework of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership established by the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference.

The Marine Life of Cyprus

by Andreas Demetropoulos

Former Director, Department of Fisheries

The Mediterranean, as we know it today, was formed about 5.3 million years ago. At that time movements in the earth's crust opened up the Straits of Gibraltar enough for the Atlantic waters to gush into the enormous salt depression that was the Mediterranean basin - in parts a few kilometre below the level of the Atlantic Ocean. For many years water flowed into this depression forming islands out of seabed mounts and covering an area of several thousand square kilometres.

This water brought with it living organisms. The Straits of Gibraltar, until the opening of the Suez Canal, formed the Mediterranean's only link with the other oceans. Through it entered many species of fish and other marine animals. Evaporation exceeded, as it does now, the fresh water inflow into the Mediterranean maintaining a steady current from the surface Atlantic into the Mediterranean.

Today's Mediterranean is characterized, as a result of its morphology and hydrography, by a rather low productivity. It is a relatively deep sea, reaching arbour 4.500 metres at its deepest with a generally narrow continental shelf.

The productivity of any sea is based mainly on the concentration of the various nutrients salts that are in circulation in the water. These are basically the phosphates and the nitrates, though lack of oxygen can also, under certain circumstances, limit productivity. This is the case in the deeper layers in the East Mediterranean. Silicates also play a role as some planktonic organisms, such as diatoms, have a cell wall that is based on silica.

The Mediterranean gets most of its nutrients salts from surface layers of the Central Altantic, which are not very rich either. The Atlantic Water that enters the Mediterranean through the Gibraltar straits follows the North Coast of Africa, with various branches on the way, and reaches the East Mediterranean. Here water travels mainly in an anticlockwise rotation around Cyprus. On the way to the east Mediterranean the nutrients enter into various life cycles and are either landed as fish or sink, ultimately, to the lower layers of the sea; as a result the East Mediterranean gets what is left over. This has its merits as it results in the East Mediterranean being one of the bluest seas in the world.

On its way here the seawater gets not only poorer but also warmer and very salty, hence denser. In the area south west of Cyprus, in winter, this water (which is known as Mediterranean Water), sinks to the deeper layers and moves west. Ultimately it gets out of the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic through the lower strata of the straits of Gibraltar. With it, it takes any nutrients that have dropped into it as organic debris. A complete change of the Mediterranean water takes over 100 years.

Within this general pattern we can now look at the sea around Cyprus. Its productivity is about the same as the productivity of the rest of the East Mediterranean. Its temperature ranges from about 16oC in winter to about 28oC in summer in all the areas around the island, with one exception, the area around Petra-tou-Romiou, where in summer the water is cooler by several degrees. This is the result of the prevailing currents causing water from deeper layers to come to the surface. In most areas a strong thermocline is formed in summer at a depth ranging from 20 to 30 metres. The temperature just below the thermocline is about 18oC. The presence of this thermocline has significant effects on the vertical distribution of the marine life of the island. The richer areas, both in quantity and variety of life, are below the depth, which the thermocline reaches, in summer at least. The salinity in the area is about 39% and is among the highest in the world.

The Mediterranean, as a result of its origins and peculiar hydrography, has its own specific fauna and flora. Characteristic of the marine life of the area is the quite large variety of species of certain phyla at least. Fisheries in Cyprus, for example, depend on a very large variety of fish, which exceeds 80 species in comparison to about 20 or so species in the North East Atlantic. No single species prevails as is the case elsewhere. Perhaps the sole exception is the sardine, which we do not have, in any appreciable quantities in Cyprus. Its place in the ecosystem seems to be taken over by Picarel of Marida (Maena smaris), which is the most abundant commercial fish in Cyprus. Though the Mediterranean's original fauna comes from the Atlantic Ocean its relative isolation has resulted in the evolution, over the past 5 million or so years, of several endemic species, such as the Mediterranean Monk Seal and several species of fish and other organisms. It has also led to the evolution of independent genetically isolated populations of other species, such as those of the Green and Loggerhead Turtles which entered the Mediterranean in much more recent times.

To the underwater visitor to the Cyprus seas, the bottom fauna in shallow waters is at first somewhat disappointing. Many animals are there, however, disguised or hidden from sight. Many bury themselves in the sand, like several species of sand-urchin and starfish, the Sauries, the Weaver fish, several skates and rays and the occasional spectacular Flying Gurnard. In shallow rocky areas sea urchins predominate, grazing on algae on the rock surface. The common fish here are Peacock and Rainbow Wrasses, Two-banded Bream (Haradjida), blennies and gobies and small Parrot Fish. Near rocks small groups of bearded Red Mullets (Barbouni) stir up the sand for tiny shrimps.

A bit deeper, below 10 or so metres, the Posidonia oceanica meadows begin, providing a very characteristic Mediterranean seascape. Posidonia is in fact not seaweed but a flowering plant that has adapted very successfully to life in the sea.

In these meadows, which can be very extensive, fish life is rich and varied, with small wrasses, breams, sea perches, groupers and the odd Bullnose Ray. The Posidonia meadows are a vital part of the whole Mediterranean ecosystem, especially as a breeding area for many organisms.

Deeper still, usually below 15-20 metres, on sandy and muddy bottoms Caulerpa prolifera takes over from Posidonia. Caulerpa is a very characteristic small green alga, forming very extensive beds in which are found the largest bivalve shells in the Mediterranean - the Pinna of Fan Shells.

Without a doubt, however, the most fascinating terrain is that of the deep-water outcrops - the reefs below 25 or so metres. The rock itself is often invisible, being completely covered with animals and plants of various hues and forms. The lilac incrustations of Lithothamnia contrast sharply with huge, dark forms of sponges. Coral knobs house the tubes of Peacock fans. In crevices and caves colonies of white and red Fan-worms compete for space with brilliant red slime-sponges. Sponges predominate here - bright, almost luminous, orange Axinella, the finger sponges, may reach a height of one metre, some smooth, some gnarled, some tall and straight, others branched and twisted into odd shapes. Still others form lilac tubes, while flat purple-brown sponges support families of white and maroon-spotted sea slugs. Feathery, pink Aeolid sea slugs feed on plant-like colonial hydroids. Crevices and caves house Red Soldier fish and the black-eyed, red-bodied Anthias.

The opening of the Suez canal last century has led to the connection of the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. For the first time the Mediterranean's pure Atlantic-origin fauna faced competition from invading Indo-Pacific animals and plants that established themselves first in the Canal and later in the Mediterranean Sea near its entrance into the Mediterranean. Several hundred species have since established themselves in the Eastern Mediterranean and the number is growing fast. These Indo-Pacific species now form over 15% of the marine fauna of the East Mediterranean. Many species, some well known such as the Red Soldier Fish and two Siganids (Rabbit Fish), are now common in the commercial catches of Cypriot fishermen. Recent immigrants from the Red Sea are Caulerpa racemosa and Stypopodium shimperi, both algae, which (and especially Caulepa racemosa) in the last 6-7 years have spread in a very explosive fashion, to cover very large areas of seabed in many areas around the island. This Caulerpa is a green spaghetti-like alga, which covers the seabed in a mat a few centimetres thick competing very successfully with local species, which it replaces. Apparently this species has as yet no enemies in the Mediterranean and is likely to revolutionise the whole East Mediterranean shallow water ecosystem, with far reaching effects on the native marine fauna and flora.

Fishing in Cyprus waters, as in most Mediterranean countries, is intensive with signs of local over fishing. Fish production is about 3.100 tons p.a. valued at about £11 million. Management measures such as closed seasons, limitations to the size of the fleet, closed areas etc., have been implemented with success. Nonetheless more remains to be done and intensive fishing inevitably has an impact on the sustainability of marine resources and on the marine biodiversity of the island.

Exotic and rare forms of wildlife give Cyprus a special touch. The Green and Loggerhead Turtles breed on the island's sandy beaches in summer. The Mediterranean Monk Seal - now on the brink of extinction - and dolphins are also protected species. Monk seals have regularly been seen, usually as single individuals, mainly off the Akamas peninsula over the last 6 years. It is estimated that there are 2-4 individuals surviving off the coast of Cyprus. A few decades ago (in the 50s) seven colonies of monk seals existed.

Since 1978 the Department of Fisheries has been operating a Turtle Conservation/Recovery Project in the Lara-Toxeftra area, aiming at helping the ailing population of both the Green and Loggerhead turtles. Emphasis is given to the Green Turtles, which are more endangered. It is estimated that about 100 Green turtles still nest on the west coast beaches while the Loggerhead nesting population is estimated at about 300 turtles. these nest mainly on the extensive Polis beaches. The turtle population was much larger in the past and it was breeding on many more beaches. Nesting turtles are tagged so that the population can be monitored, eggs are incubated under protection in situ or in the hatchery at Lara and research is carried out on turtle hatchery techniques. About 8.000 turtle hatchlings, of both species, are released from the Lara/Toxeftra beaches every year. In situ nest protection is also now afforded to Loggerhead nests on the Polis beaches and it is estimated that with the protection given about an equal number of hatchlings reach the sea from nests on these beaches. The project is the first turtle conservation project in the Mediterranean.

Since 1989 the main Green Turtle nesting beaches in the Lara - Toxeftra area are protected by the Fisheries Legislation. Turtles and their eggs, along with the Monk seals and dolphins, have been protected under this Legislation since 1971.

Training courses in turtle conservation techniques and beach management have been held every year since 1989 for Mediterranean scientists. These trainees are sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (Mediterranean Action Plan). The project has recently received European Union assistance as a MEDSPA project.

The Snakes of Cyprus

by Antonis L. Antoniou

Senior Environmental Officer Environment Service,

Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment

Reptiles are a very important link in the chain of life and evolution. For the last 200 million years they actively participate in the development of the various ecosystems, for they are found all over the planet except the two Polar Regions and altitudes over 6.000m. They constitute a very important prey for many mammals, birds and invertebrates, thus contributing to the dynamic balance in their respective ecosystems.

Despite the fact that reptiles have been present all over our planet for so many million years, it is only during the last few decades that their numbers have shown a distinct decline in many of their populations. In addition, many species are threatened, or even at the brink of extinction. The most important reasons behind this decline are man%26rsquo;s activities, especially through the destruction of habitats. Through their continuous quest for land to be used for habitation, agriculture, industry or other uses humans have caused widespread habitat destruction, with negative impact on all species that live in them. Simultaneously, the uncontrolled use of pesticides affects various reptiles both directly and indirectly (i.e. through their food), with detrimental results.

Since Cyprus is an island, it would be expected that only a few species of reptiles would be present. But this is not the case, for the environment of Cyprus boasts 22 different reptile species, some of which have evolved into endemic species and subspecies. The presence of many snakes and other reptiles in Cyprus was known from ancient times. The story of St. Helen, who brought a shipload of cats to the island in an attempt to control the number of poisonous snakes, which proliferated after a long period of serious drought, is well known.

Burnt snake bones were found among the bones of birds and pigmy hippos that have been recently excavated at the Asprokremmos area of Akrotiri Peninsula. This fact suggests that snakes were a food source for humans that lived on Cyprus around 8.500 B.C.

Another indication that snakes have been widespread on Cyprus comes from the Italian priest Giovanni Mariti, who lived on the island from 1760 to 1767. In his extensive work "Viaggi per l' isola di Cipro", Mariti mentions the following: "There is a black snake, usually five to six feet long. It is not poisonous and you can hold it in your hands. Occasionally people skin the snake and cook the meat, which is considered to be a delicacy".

From the 22 known reptile species of Cyprus, 11 are lizards, three are turtles, and eight are snakes. These eight snake species have colonized almost every corner of the island. The Blind Wormsnake (Typhlops vermicularis) lives underground, while the Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) lives in and around reservoirs, stream pools and other wetlands. The remaining six species live all over the island, from the coast to the mountains. One species, the Cyprus Whip snake (Coluber cypriensis), is endemic and extremely rare, thus it is highly endangered, and should be effectively protected.

Three snake species are poisonous: The Cyprus Catsnake (Telescopus fallax cyprianus), the Montpellier Snake (Malponon monspessulanus inisgnitus), and the Blunt--nosed Viper (Vipera lebetina lebetina). The venom of the last species is highly dangerous for humans, and bites from this viper can often be lethal. The other two species have a rather weak venom that usually causes little trouble to humans.

Snakes and humans

In the food pyramid, snakes are considered to be third class consumers, that is they simultaneously are prey of higher consumers like mammals, birds, and humans. The role of snakes in the environment is extremely important, for they are a major means of control of destructive rodents. This is the very reason why many farmers from the Morphou area used to buy (before 1974) from villagers of the Mesaoria plain Large European Whipsnakes (known in Cyprus as "Black Snakes", Coluber jugularis), which were then set free in their fields and farms to control the population of mice and rats. This is the reason why this species is also known as "Farmer's Snake". In general, the snakes of Cyprus are rather calm creatures that attack humans only if and when provoked, and thus feel threatened. More information on each and every snake species of Cyprus is given herebelow.

Worm Snake

(Typhlops vermicularis )

Very slender and cylindrical and slightly thicker towards the tail. Has a rather flattened head with rounded snout not distinct from the body. Eyes are on the top of the head and appear as two tiny black spots. The tail is rounded and very short with a distinct spine at the tip. Usually has a brownish, pinkish or purple colour. Usually smaller than 35 cm.

It is mainly a subterranean species and can be found in fairly dry, open habitats without dense covering of high vegetation. Grassy fields and slopes with scattered stones are often favoured. In spring it can often be found under half sunken stones, but in summer retreats deeper into the ground. Occupies narrow burrows down which it retreats very quickly when disturbed. Feeds mainly on small invertebrates, especially ants and their larvae.

Montpellier Snake

(Malpolon monspessulanus insignitus)

A large fomidable, often uniform snake with rather stiff, slender body and narrow characteristically shaped head. The combination of large eyes and strong "browse gives this snake a very penetrating expression. Pattern very variable; ground colour grey, reddish-brown, olive, greenish or blackish. Many adults are more or less uniform, but may have scattered light or dark spots, or both. It can grow up to 200 cm, including tail.

It is a vivid terrestrial snake, which usually can be found in warm, dry habitats, nearly always with some plant cover in which it often hides. When threatened hisses loudly and for long periods; may also flatten body and spread neck. Provoked animals often try to bite. It feeds on lizards, other snakes, small mammals and occasionally on birds.

Prey animals are killed by action of venom. Fangs are at the back of the upper jaw and because of this they are only liable to be used effectively on human beings if the snake is actually picked up. A severe bite from a free snake is unlikely. In man, prolonged bites to the hand produce numbing and stiffness in the arm, as well as swelling and even fever. This usually passes in a few hours.

Large Whip Snake

(Coluber jugularis)

One of the longest snakes, reaching sometimes up to 300 cm., with a fairly well defined but smallish head, smooth scales, fairly prominent eyes and round pupils. It has a yellow-brown, olive-brown or reddish colour with a pattern of narrow stripes that extend all over the body.

This is a diurnal, very swift and largely terrestrial species living in dry, open habitats, usually with some vegetation. Often not very inclined to retreat and bites readily when handled.

Adults eat mainly small mammals. Youngsters take a high proportion of lizards and grasshoppers.

Grass Snake

(Natrix natrix)

A rather large snake, usually up to 120 cm, often less but occasionally up to 200 cm. Females grow larger than males. It has a very variable colour. The body is usually olive-grey, greenish, olive-brown or even steel-grey with various dark blotches and sometimes light stripes.

Natrix natrix is a largely diurnal species and usually occurs near water. Swims well and may hunt in water. When disturbed may hiss and strike with mouth closed, but rarely bites. Often voids evil smelling contents of anal gland when handled, and may feign death, lying on back with mouth open and tongue hanging out. Its food consists predominantly of frogs but fish are also occasionally taken and even small mammals.

Cyprus Cat Snake

(Telescopus fallax cyprianus)

A slender snake with a broad flat head, usually up to about 75 cm., but sometimes over 100 cm. Has small eyes with vertical cat-like pupil. Its colour is usually grey, beige or brownish with a conspicuous dark spot or collar just behind the head, and a series of dark transverse bars or blotches on back.

It is usually found in stony places, rocky degraded woodland, old walls, rock piles, ruins, etc. Mainly hunts at twilight but sometimes is active at night in summer and by day in the cooler part of the year. Feeds almost entirely on lizards. Once caught, lizards are held in jaws while venom takes effect. Telescopus varies in temperament. Some animals bite when handled.

This snake has grooved fangs at back of upper jaw which inject venom into prey causing death of small lizards in two or three minutes. Unlikely to be dangerous to man as the mouth is too small to allow fangs to be used effectively.

Blunt-nosed Viper

(Vibera lebetina lebetina)

Big strong viper with a sturdy head that is clearly distinguishable from the neck. Has relatively small eyes with perpendicular slit pupils and keeled scales. Its colour is whitish-grey, straw-yellow or rust-brown.

On its back there are two rows of ochre-coloured staggered transverse patches. Generally a robust snake reaching up to 150 cm and occasionally 200 cm.

It dwells in sunny, scarcely planted slopes and dry riverbeds with small pools where it waits for prey. It is a mainly day-active very poisonous viper. Nevertheless during the summer months of July and August it hunts mainly at night. Its prey consists mainly of rats, mice, birds, lizards and occasionally snakes. This viper has a very strong poison and its bite must be treated by antidote and the victim must be hospitalised.

Cyprus Whip Snake

(Coluber cypriensis)

This is the only endemic reptile species of Cyprus. Can be encountered in Akamas, the Paphos forest and in a few other areas of the Paphos district.

It has a long and slender body with a distinguishable head reaching in length up to 110 cm. Its colour is black, dark-brown or olive-brown with a well-defined white ring around the eyes. It has a relatively large mouth with small sharp teeth without venom.

This snake species was identified in early 1983 and this is why so little is known as to its habits. It prefers rocky areas covered with vegetation, is a diurnal species and feeds mainly on lizards. The carob lizard, Ablepharus kitaibelii should be an appropriate pray for this species. Judging from its body, the Cyprus Whip Snake must be good climber.

Coin Snake

(Coluber nummifer)

A strong snake with the head clearly distinguishable from the neck. Eyes with round pupils and lightly keeled scales all over until the very long tale. The upper head can have a variable colouring. On the back from head to tail there are dark brown patches. Its total length can reach up to 150cm.

Coluber nummifer is a day-active snake, loves the sun and is remarkably agile and extremely fast. Lives near populated areas where it looks for food in old stonewalls. When threatened instead of giving way as most snakes do, attacks back. Its bite, although painful because of its sharp teeth is completely harmless. It feeds on small mammals, lizards and birds. When small, feeds on large insects. The prey is encircled in a split second and strangled to death.

To complement the information on our herpetofauna the following list has been prepared which contains all the reptile species of Cyprus classified in four main categories i.e. Sea turtles, Freshwater Turtles, Lizards and Snakes:

Sea Turtles

* Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta)

* Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Freshwater Turtles

* Striped Terrapin

(Mauremys caspica rivulata)


* Kotchy's Gecko

(Cyrtodactylus kotchyi fitzingeri )

* Hardun (Agama stellio cypriaca)

* Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

* Common Chamaeleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon rectistricta)

* Fringe-fingered Lizard (Acanthodactylus schreiberi)

* Troodos Rock Lizard (Lacerta laevis troodica)

* Snake-eyed Lizard

(Ophisops elegans schlueteri)

* Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii)

* Ocellated Skink

(Chalcides ocellatus ocellatus)

* Striped Skink (Mabuya vittata)

* Schneider's Skink (Eumeces schneideri)


* Blind Wormsnake (Typhlops vermicularis)

* Desert Whipsnake (Coluber nummifer)

* Large European Whipsnake

(Coluber jugularis)

* Cyprus Whipsnake

(Coluber cypriensis)

* Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

* Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus insignitus)

* Cyprus Catsnake (Telescopus fallax cyprianus)

* Blunt-nosed Viper

(Vipera lebetina lebetina)


· 1. Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe, E.N. Arnold and J.A. Burton
· 2. The Snakes of Cyprus, R. Konstantinides
· 3. Amphibians and Reptiles of Cyprus, The Herpetological Society of Cyprus
· 4. The Snakes as an Important Ring to the Chain of Life, A. Mavroskouphis
· 5. Snakes and us, A.L. Antoniou
· 6. The Snakes of Europe, J.W. Steward

Entry Date 26/6/2001