Since 1995, the University of Sydney has been uncovering the ruins the ancient Paphos Theater at the Nea Paphos World Heritage Centre.

This center, a prized research hub of the Republic of Cyprus, offers a direct link to the island’s ancient history.

Collaborating closely with the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, the Australian mission celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic ties between Australia and Cyprus in 2023. Led by Dr. Craig Barker and Emeritus Professor Richard Green, the team commemorates this milestone with a project that reveals one of the island’s and Hellenism’s greatest treasures.

The Australian mission, spanning nearly three decades, focuses on excavating the historic theatre and its surroundings in the town that served as Cyprus’s capital during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

Excavations have unveiled a theatre in use for over 65 years, from approximately 300 BC to the late 4th century AD, accommodating more than 8,500 people at its peak in the second century AD. Discoveries include artifacts from the Medieval and post-Medieval periods, reflecting Paphos’s significance as a commercial port during the Crusades era.

View of the cavea (seating) of the theatre of Nea Paphos following excavation by the University of Sydney. Photo: Courtesy of the University of Sydney

Ongoing fieldwork explores the urban layout of the neighboring theatre precinct, revealing Roman paved roadways and a Roman nymphaeum.

The University of Sydney team is engaged in interpreting, cataloging, and publishing pottery and artifacts alongside the excavation.

Areas of interest encompass the development of theatre architecture, the materiality of Hellenistic period theatrical performances, Hellenistic to post-medieval ceramic production in Cyprus, the ancient city’s urban layout, and Roman water usage in an urban setting.

In the 2023 excavation season, trenches in three sections of the site revealed the foundations of the Roman “Royal Box” from the remnants of the old cavea.

The University of Sydney team suggests this box, reserved for dignitaries, likely had a marble or painted fresco façade.

Notably, this marks the first instance of this architectural element in ancient Cypriot theaters.

Behind the theatre, work continues on an extensive medieval and post-medieval structure, likely a significant late medieval and Venetian Paphos edifice.

South of the theatre, archaeological study areas have unveiled the impressive alignment of Roman routes through Nea Paphos. Archaeological trenches have shown architectural peculiarities, indicating modifications by medieval and Ottoman engineers.