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July 24 Kiwanis Program: Earthwatch participant Joan Theubel spoke about researching a “Crusader Castle in Cyprus”.

Joan Theubel (left in photo), who spoke about an Earthwatch research project “Crusader Castle in Cyprus”, was introduced by Mary Anne Maloney.

First, Joan gave some background on the Earthwatch project. Saranda Kolones (meaning 40 columns) in Cyprus is an archeological site of historical significance.  The name was given by the people of Paphos (Pafos), Cyprus, on the Southwestern part of Cyprus, who talked about marble columns projecting out of a field. Historian and archeologist John Rosser wondered what they were talking about so he started research in the area. He found that in 1191 AD Richard the Lionheart conquered a castle in Cyprus. Rosser wondered if remains of a castle on the site were from the one Richard conquered. The objective of the Earthwatch project was to determine if the marble columns have anything to do with the castle.

As archeologists dug down in the fields they reached the original level of Bronze Age settlements. On top of that are Greek Hellenistic ruins. On top of that are Roman remains. On top of that is the Byzantine layer. Finally, on the surface are the castle fortifications under study. The question was, “were these fortifications built before 1191?” If true, this would suggest that it was the castle conquered by Richard the Lionheart.

We do know that there were some Arab raids in the area around 650 AD. If the site was the conquered castle, it had to be built between 650 and 1191. It is known the Richard the Lionheart was on his 3rd Crusade when the castle surrendered to him. It is known that the existing castle under study was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1122 AD.

The research is of interest to historians who study military techniques over the years. Castles could be European, where there is a wall surrounding a Keep building. Or else they could be Arab and built with concentric walls. The subject castle had concentric walls. It is possible that the castle was constructed by Crusaders following the Arab style because it might have been easier to defend.  It also had a “Sally Port” (like sally forth). This is a doorway and tunnel leading out of the castle.

Joan showed many very beautiful slides of Paphos, Cyprus.  The Earthwatch workers resided in a nice modern condo style apartment. The site is a great place to go for vacation, with many lovely flowers. Her photos showed how later generations reused construction materials from old ruins to build new structures.

Joan dug outside and between the castle walls to see if there was any sign of construction between 650 and 1191. Workers found, washed, identified and stored objects which they uncovered using a trowel, dental tool and brush. Professional workers used laptop computers to research items as they were uncovered. The remaining walls are in pretty good shape. For example, they found charcoal left by ancient residents cooking a meal. They also found remains of human bodies. Joan showed many excellent slides illustrating details of the castle, including arches, millstones, walls and plumbing. She showed examples of reusing the Hellenistic marble columns in construction of the castle. 

Earthwatch workers found no evidence of construction between 650 and 1191. Clearly, this castle was not there when Richard the Lionheart arrived. The Crusaders built it in an Arab style using some of the found marble columns. At the end of the talk, the audience applauded this very interesting and entertaining talk. To learn more, click here to check out this Cyprus Castle web site. Also click here to view John Rosser document website regarding the project.

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