William A. P. Childs, professor in the Department of Art and Archaeology, who had excavated at Morgantina, was interested in continuing Princeton’s tradition of working in the eastern Mediterranean. Involved in Turkish archaeology for many years, he became curious about the neighboring island of Cyprus. Princeton began excavations near the small village of Polis Chrysochous on the northwest shore of Cyprus in 1983 in the hopes of uncovering the ancient city of Marion/Arsinoe.
Occupation on the site began as early as 4000 B.C., but the earliest architectural remains recovered so far date to around 1000 B.C. The earliest coherent structure unearthed is a sanctuary of “the Goddess” of the seventh and sixth centuries; destroyed around 500 B.C., it lay largely undisturbed until excavated by Princeton. Several thousand small to medium-sized terracotta figurines and statuettes, as well as vases, animal bones, bronze bowls, and an iron roasting-spit, testify to the lively cult and constitute an almost unique view into the manner in which such early sanctuaries functioned.
A second sanctuary, of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., also filled with votive figurines and statuettes bore witness to the destruction of Marion by Ptolemy in 312 B.C.: the broken votives lay over the floor in a deep level of ash. Next to and partially invading the sanctuary was a wall three meters wide hastily built to defend the city, but in vain.
Other discoveries include traces of an ashlar building of immense size. Much of the pottery found there dates to the sixth century B.C., giving some support to the idea that this might have been the “palace” of the archaic city. A magnetometer survey found that the entire field adjacent to this structure was covered by a rectangular grid of streets, with the southernmost road leading directly to the “palace.”
Only scant remains of The Hellenistic city have been found, but from the time of Augustus through the early Byzantine period the city of Arsinoe flourished and grew. Large Roman structures (possibly a villa) of early imperial date and two basilicas of the Early Christian period, one of them containing numerous fragments of early Byzantine wall painting, have been unearthed. Excavations in the area adjacent to one of the basilicas revealed an intersection of two major streets with a complex drainage system and the base of a tetrapylon archway, all dating to the Late Antique period. Exploitation of the nearby copper mines at Limni is evident in large heaps of slag and metalworking establishments. The city began to decline in the late eighth century and was probably abandoned by 1000 A.D. in the wake of Arab raids.