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Forgotten tombs found on British military base

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services have rediscovered forgotten tombs on a British military base in Cyprus.

The researchers surveyed archaeological sites initially documented in the 1960s for the construction of the Dhekelia Sovereign base and the Kingsfield Airstrip, the locations of which had been lost over the following decades.

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The Dhekelia Sovereign base covers a large area on the east side of Larnaca Bay and has a varied topology of steep limestone cliffs, hills, rocky outcrops, and a broadly flat plateau on the interior.

The survey has revealed 51 sites in total, including 5 historic buildings, ancient quarries, and numerous tombs that date from the Bronze Age, the Hellenistic period, the Roman period, and the Byzantine period.

In order to identify the sites, the researchers undertook a ‘walkover survey’ – a systematic surveying and recording of visible archaeological remains using Geographic Information System (GIS) records. The team then conducted a ground inspection of each possible monument, which were then photographed and properly recorded with a GPS position.

Matt Beamish from University of Leicester Archaeological Services, who led the survey, said: “Our GIS and survey methods had worked well when used for a similar survey of the Akrotiri peninsula in 2019. Many of the sites we were planning to survey had been last visited over 20 years ago, and in many instances had been reported as no longer existing or being unfindable.”

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Ancient quarry – Image Credit : ULAS, University of Leicester

According to a press statement, large areas of rock cut tombs extended over several hectares in one part of the inland plateau. Most of these tombs were in a very poor state and some bore clear signs of looting in the form of adjacent mounds of earth. One tomb, part of a substantial cemetery surrounding a monastery to the west of Xylotymbou village was being used for caging cats.

Alex Sotheran, Archaeology Advisor, DIO, said: “The work carried out by Matt and the team has really improved our knowledge and understanding of the archaeology across the Dhekelia area and will allow for an improved system of management of these vital and important heritage assets going forward.”

Header Image Credit : ULAS, University of Leicester

Sources : University of Leicester – Lost tombs and quarries rediscovered on British military base in Cyprus

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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