The incipit of a piece in the Blairsville Dispatch:

After 1,500 years, Aphrodite hasn't lost the ability to turn heads. According to ancient Greek myth, the goddess of beauty and love came to life on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

And that's where three area scholars gazed once more upon her image, while dusting off the rich legacy of a vanished city.

Allison Hastings of New Flor-ence, Jordan Haines of Indiana and Alesha Shumar of Mt. Pleasant, all IUP juniors, were on a team which flew to Cyprus this summer to catalog pieces of the past.

After her first trip overseas, Hastings said the excursion whetted her appetite for more.

"Just being there opened your eyes to the whole world," she said. "Now we have the disease: we want to go out of the country and travel."

The team, co-sponsored by IUP and the University of North Dakota, was charged with collecting and documenting artifacts at the site of a settlement that was thriving in the seventh century.

In their third year of work at the site, near the modern city of Larnaca, the university teams have yet to turn a spade of dirt. They've had only to scratch the surface to uncover a treasure trove of artifacts.

The team surveyed both larger items, such as cut stone blocks, and smaller ones, including pottery and tiles.

"It appears to be one of the largest single-site surveys from the Roman period in the eastern Mediterranean," said Dr. Scott Moore, a professor at IUP and director of the archeological project.

Moore pointed out, aside from farmers' plows, the site has been largely undisturbed for centuries.

Among the most interesting items discovered this summer was the miniature goddess image--likely that of Aphrodite, dating from the Hellenistic phase of Greek art, according to Moore.

He noted the study area includes "a small Hellenistic site and a very large site from the (later) Roman period."

Though the team was able to place the ancient artwork chronologically, the original purpose of the fragmentary piece remains open to debate.

Rather than an ordinary pottery shard, Moore and his students argued that the item may be a portion of a wall relief, or even "the top of a Hellenistic lamp."

Whatever, Moore said, "It's sort of an amazing find." "I probably found it and didn't know what it was," said Haines.

Despite temperatures in excess of 90 degrees, his preferred assignment was joining team members on a "landscape survey," walking over the ground at set intervals to document smaller artifacts they found.

Haines manned a GPS (global positioning system) unit, pinpointing the location of each item.

Most days, the students reported at 7 a.m., to get in as much work as possible before the sun became too intense. Still, Haines said, "A lot of people didn't like it because it was so hot."

On the other hand, his two classmates "liked washing the pottery and seeing what was underneath" the dirt, Shumar said.

It was a time-consuming process, requiring care to make sure the broken pottery pieces weren't further damaged.

Hastings explained, "We had a big tub of water and toothbrushes," to free the objects from obscuring soil. Then, "We set them out in the sun to dry."

"I liked dating the pottery," Hastings added. "We had a chart of all the (known) types, and we would categorize them as close as we could."

In three weeks of work, the team identified and cataloged more than 4,000 pieces of pottery and about 500 features--that is, any artifact other than ceramic ware.

"How much was there was amazing," Haines said of the wealth of artifacts to be found.

Shumar pointed out the artifacts were "so much older than anything we've seen here at home. We think of 200 years as being old."

"It's a very developing area," she added of Cyprus, a popular get-away destination for European vacationers. "We got to the site before there was a hotel on top of it."

Moore returned to the site with students after working there as a graduate student, in 1995.

With two colleagues, William Caraher of the University of North Dakota and Jay Noller of Oregon State, Moore has a working relationship with Dr. Maria Hadjicostia of Cyprus' Department of Antiquities.

He explained Hadjicostia family has leased the land for many years, though ultimate control of the area is more complicated.

"It's a very delicate situation," said Moore, with the Department of Antiquities and the British government both claiming rights to the property.

Cyprus was a British colony from 1925 until 1960. As a result, most of the island's natives speak English, and road signs a re in English as well as Greek.

Another holdover from colonial days: two British military bases, not far from the archeological site.

Over the centuries people from many nations have been attracted to Cyprus, due to its strategic location between Europe and Asia.

"It was an ideal stop for traders," Moore said.

Then there were accidental tourists like the English king Richard the Lionheart, who tradition says was shipwrecked on Cyprus. The British monarch then made war on his hosts.

Richard soon gained control of the island--and promptly turned it over to a French knight, Guy de Lusignan.

An earlier Arab incursion, in 649, may have contributed to the demise of the coastal community the IUP team is studying.

That's one of the theories Moore wants to explore through continued work at the site, including future excavation.

So far, in addition to the Roman influence, the teams have found evidence reflecting the early arrival of Christianity on the island.

Previous excavations have uncovered the foundations of a basilica, along with "painted plaster, gypsum and even a little marble," Moore said--an indication of wealth, since the marble was imported.

Comparing the site to similar communities on the island, Moore concluded, "The basilicas were out front on the coastline, to be shown off, to reflect the wealth."

Recalling signs of other structures, Haines said, "The stones we were coming across were...worked; they had distinct features to them. Some were so big we couldn't move them."

Moore theorizes another exposed foundation was from a guard house, which would have protected a path inland.

Other previous finds at the site have related to the island's traditional production of olive oil: a large stone press that was used to crush the olives and jars to store and transport the resulting oil.

According to Haines, the team also found a cut stone they believe might have been an anchor, fitting in with his professor's theory that the site once was a port.

"We have what we feel is an in-filled harbor," Moore said of one of the topographical features.

The overall goal of the archeological project is to place the site in context, comparing the remnants of its culture with that found at other similar sites on Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean.

... more.