SIA 10 : Malounda Panayia Khrysopandanassa

The 18th-century church of Panayia Khrysopandanassa ('Our Lady, the Golden Ruler of All') lies amongst olive groves just beyond the northern outskirts of the village of Malounda. It overlooks an agricultural plain that stretches from Aredhiou in the north to Klirou in the south, and ends abruptly on each side at the gorge of the Koutis River on the east and the Akaki River on the west. This plain is a remnant of an alluvial terrace from an earlier and much larger river.

The SIA 10 area was first investigated during the 1995 season, initiating our new strategy of targeting potential areas of significance and making use of information generated by the GIS, and of team members’ experience within Cyprus and in the survey area. In this case the targeting bore fruit immediately: the first unit surveyed contained 1,855 sherds. Even though the block survey was carried out at two different times of year, only 25 units were sufficiently free of crops or vegetation to merit survey.

There has been a significant level of human activity in the area of Malounda Panayia Khrysopandanassa since the Archaic and Classical periods. A slight density peak northwest of the church in the Archaic and Classical period stands out because of its greater proportions of fine wares and storage pottery. A slightly larger peak in the Late Roman period in the same area coincides with the tile distribution, and the pottery includes notable amounts of imported fine wares as well as storage and transport vessels. The concentration of high quality early Medieval pottery around the church is most unusual in the survey area, and clearly marks some focus of elite activity.

It is interesting that the church in the centre of Malounda village is modern, and there is no known predecessor on the site; Panayia Khrysopandanassa on the outskirts is the oldest known building by several centuries. Although the village of ‘Milondo’ is known in the 16th century, it may have been closer to Panayia Khrysopandanassa than to its current situation. This could only be fully determined by further block survey, and much of the evidence is lost beneath the developing outskirts of the modern village. In the 1920s a new church was built in the centre of the current village, to act as the focus of the settlement. Whatever its earlier role, the old church of Panayia Khrysopandanassa now lies well outside the village, and functions as a rural church with private dedications and festivals on the Saint’s day.

The significance of the area to its population at different periods results not just from the series of broad river terraces and their good alluvial soil, but from its proximity to a major crossing of the Akaki River and gorge. Historical documentation demonstrates the importance of this route in the Late Medieval to Modern periods, and the bridge at Tria Yephyria (SCY303) confirms it. Even before then, this seems to have been an important communications node. Both the Archaic/Classical and the Roman components of Panayia Khrysopandanassa are matched by similar concentrations of pottery above the gorge on its western side, immediately beside the route up from the bridge (SCY002). There were also major Roman settlements at Klirou village and Klirou Manastirka (SIA 2), and smaller estates or farmsteads all over the Akaki River Valley, such as Malounda Panayia Khrysopandanassa. The Tria Yephyria route supplied the best access from these settlements to the mining territory of Agrokipia and Mitsero, and thus linked the city of Tamassos to some of its principle mines.