Hi I am Phil Abramson, a DIO Archaeology Advisor covering the north of England, Scotland…..and Cyprus! There are thousands of heritage assets on the MOD Estate. Many of these are designated sites of national and international importance whilst others are of local or regional significance. MOD takes its stewardship of the historic environment seriously and recognises that people care passionately about their heritage and want to protect it. This holds as true for the overseas estates as it does for training areas in the UK, and the Ancient Akrotiri Project (as the name implies) has been established to improve our understanding of the important historic landscape of the Akrotiri Peninsula on the southern coast of Cyprus. This is a multi-disciplinary project using archaeological excavation, survey, geo-morphology and marine archaeology to get to grips with how the peninsula has been formed and exploited over several thousands of years.
As I type these words a team of academics and students from the University of Leicester School of Archaeology is undertaking a geophysical survey on RAF Akrotiri. This work has been a real joint effort. In order to get the team out there, funding has been secured from the DIO Conservation Stewardship Fund, security passes have been organised by DIO colleagues based on the island, consent has been agreed by the Station Commander and permits for the survey to be carried out have been given by the Sovereign Base Administration and the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus. This pooling together of resources in order to achieve objectives exemplifies the collaborative and partnership nature of the project and is a tribute to the military and civilian personnel in MOD/DIO and to University of Leicester staff.
The project has been on the go for about four years and was initially designed to investigate the Roman buildings at Dreamer’s Bay, a favoured recreation spot for personnel and well known for its archaeological importance. Severe erosion had resulted in ancient pottery shards strewn across the site and exposure of buildings associated with what is now thought to be a late Roman/early Byzantine port. The University of Leicester School of Archaeology, with the support of an Operation Nightingale team, DIO and the Honor Frost Foundation have seasonally surveyed, excavated and recorded the site over the past three years. The project’s work has uncovered a rich and varied history of the area dating as far back as the 360s AD. Some of the finds include part of a substantial masonry building with plastered walls, tile roofing and high quality flooring which suggest the building was quite important. Its location near the best viewpoint overlooking the sea could mean it was used in some sort of defensive capacity. Further excavation is being done to gather more information.
But what has this got to do with MOD and facilitating military training? Well, geophysical surveys may help to reveal the location of buried archaeological remains on open areas within RAF Akrotiri. This will prove helpful to MOD planners when choosing the location of new developments on the base so that military exercises, training and any future building work do not disrupt the archaeology on the site. A car park for visitors has also been built on a separate area of the site to prevent cars from accidentally tracking over the archaeological remains.
By locating, surveying, recording and, where necessary, excavating the archaeological landscape on the peninsula, the Ancient Akrotiri Project demonstrates to the national and international community how MOD takes stewardship of heritage assets on its estate very seriously. We are delighted to have been selected as runners up for the Heritage Project Award at this year’s Sanctuary Awards.
Future fieldwork is being planned closer to the RAF station so watch this space for news of further archaeological discoveries in the months and years to come!