March 27, 2009 / 12:15 PM / 10 years ago

Italian dig uncovers "oldest" temple in Cyprus

NICOSIA (Reuters) - An Italian archaeologist says she has discovered what is believed to be the oldest site of religious worship in Cyprus, a temple which is about 4,000 years old.

The find at the Pyrgos-Mavroraki site close to the southern city of Limassol predates any other discoveries in Cyprus by about 1,000 years, Italian archaeologist Maria Rosaria Belgiorno said.

“This is the first evidence of religion in Cyprus at the beginning of the second millennium BC,” she was quoted as telling the Cyprus Weekly newspaper from Rome.

The Cyprus Antiquities Department said further examination would be required before the find could be verified. “We cannot dismiss the claim but we cannot verify it either,” Antiquities Department official Maria Hadjicosti told Reuters.

Belgiorno said she had found the outline of a triangular-shaped temple, comprised of two rooms, on the site. There was a sacrificial altar flanked by a channel on two sides.

“We found no statues, but there is evidence that it is a monotheistic temple,” she said. It was probably destroyed in an earthquake and abandoned in 1800 BC.

In ancient religions, triangles typified spiritual gateways or embodied three separate deities.

In the past, the Pyrgos-Mavroraki site has also yielded finds ranging from an ancient perfumery to one of the earliest records of how olive oil was used to fire furnaces.

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