Another time and another world: Ancient Cyprus comes to life

Dr George Georgiou reveals the newest Cypriot archeological findings

Cyprus’ rich archeological past is being brought to life by prominent archeologist Dr George Georgiou.
In Australia on a lecture tour on behalf of the Department of Antiquities in Cyprus and the Cyprus High Commission, Dr Georgiou is bringing the glory of ancient Cyprus to a new audience.
His career has spanned digs for the Early and Middle Bronze Age to the Greek and Roman ruins in Cyprus.
But it wasn’t a career Dr Georgiou initially thought he would enter.
As a child, Dr Georgiou was good at everything, which proved a challenge in specialising in one area.
Initially he studied at the Polytechnic University in Athens to be an engineer. He only lasted a semester.
“I went through period of searching and thought archeology and history would be nice,” he told Neos Kosmos.
“I’m not one of those cases that knew what they wanted to do from six”.
The archeologist then fell in love with unearthing the secrets of the past.
Dr Georgiou has managed in his career to shift the peripheral view held by many of Cypriot archeology to a much more important part of the ancient world.
“The ancient Cypriot civilization was always an integral part of the Mediterranean and the ancient world. At certain points of its history the island managed to be the shaper of new things,” he says.
Cyprus had the advantage, and at some points the disadvantage, of being in the middle of three continents and three Empires.
Cyprus from a very early time managed to prosper when the Greek and Roman empires were nonexistent.
Natural copper resources made Cyprus highly sought after, and a political player.
Dr Georgiou has found correspondence with Egyptian Pharaohs and the Kings of Cyprus.
“The pharaoh is addressed the king of Cyprus as an equal,” he says.
“I don’t think the pharaoh really believed that Cyprus was equal to Egypt, but he had to do this to get copper.”
Early Cypriots were able to exploit their position and natural resources to give political power to the island, disproportionate to its size.
They were smart about their position and willingly communicated with the great powers of that day, including the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians.
“Cypriots used the sea surrounding them as a means of communication and not as a barrier towards the rest of the world that surrounded them,” Dr Georgiou mentions.
Dr Georgiou is now working with the Department of Antiquities to monitor the country’s development and save these sites before the bulldozers come.
Especially in the capital Nicosia, archeologists have uncovered a Bronze Age cemetery which has helped to reveal how people lived at that time and what customs they had.
“The remains of the settlement are buried deep under the Byzantine and medieval period,” he says.
It shows that even before Nicosia became the capital, it was a popular place of settlement. The graves are able to track the start of settlement during that time and the end, as the cemetery stopped being used.
Dr Georgiou says it’s important for the Department to get there first.
“When every new building means the end, it’s now or never. You don’t have a second chance or else it will be lost forever.
“Considering these difficulties, every piece is important,” he says.
When asked if he had a favourite find, he is quick to avoid putting more emphasis on one find over another.
“You cannot compare one find in any way to a find from another period, because they are not alike. But it is true that every find has its own importance,” he says.
The work of archeologists help us better understand human motivations and learn from our mistakes.
“When you look backwards you have the luxury to understand what went wrong or what was right. I think this is the essence of historic studies,” Dr Georgiou says.
He believes there is great significance to using the pieces of the past to inform our future decisions.
“The reason why we study the past is to be in a better position to plan our future. That is how humanity develops,” he says.
A sentiment many can take on board.
Dr Georgiou is here on his first trip to Australia and is keen to interact with the Cypriots of Australia. His work has spanned over many years in which the country saw war and division.
“I’m really impressed with their strength and their determination.
I know the stories of some of them, who had to leave their country to come to a place so far away,” he says.