Archaeologists uncover ancient banquet hall used for eating sacrificial animals and toasting Gods with wine

The 2,000-year-old discovery, the first of its kind in the country, was made next to the remains of an ancient temple in the ancient city of Nea Paphos in Cyprus. Anna Kubicka

An ancient banqueting hall where diners feasted on the meat of sacrificial animals and drank wine to honour the Gods has been found by Polish archaeologists in Cyprus.

The 2,000-year-old discovery, the first of its kind in the country, was made next to the remains of an ancient temple in the ancient city of Nea Paphos.

Carved into the rock face of a hill with a ramp leading from the temple, scientists say both functioned in parallel between the 2nd century BC and the mid-2nd century AD.

Professor Jolanta Młynarczyk from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw, who is leading the research, said: “Its central point was a circular recess with drainage, which was used for libations in honour of the Gods.”Jolanta Młynarczyk

Professor Jolanta Młynarczyk from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw, who is leading the research, told ‘Nauka w Polsce (Science in Poland)’: “This was a place of sacred open air banquets, whose characteristic semi-circular outline is known in archaeology by the term ‘stibadium’.

“Its central point was a circular recess with drainage, which was used for libations in honour of the Gods.”

The city of Nea Paphos was established on the south-western part of the island at the end of the 4th century BC.

In ancient times, feasts to honour the Gods were a widespread ritual.Allan Gluck/CCA 4.0

In the Hellenistic period, it belonged to the Egyptian Ptolemiac Kingdom, after which it found itself under Roman rule.

From around 200 BC to around 350 AD, it served as the capital of Cyprus.

The discovery was made next to the highest point of Fabrica hill, the south side of which has been the focus of research by Polish and French archaeologists since 2017

According to scientists, the temple and banqueting hall were probably destroyed by an earthquake around the year 150 AD.

It remains a mystery which Gods were celebrated at Fabrica Hill, though it is suspected that it was the patron of the ancient city, Aphrodite of Paphos.Public domain

In ancient times, feasts to honour the Gods were a widespread ritual practiced not only in Cyprus, but across many Mediterranean cultures.

Figurative scenes showing open air feasting in a stibadium can for example be seen on artefacts from Golgoi in Cyprus.  

But it remains a mystery which Gods were celebrated at Fabrica Hill, though it is suspected that it was the patron of the ancient city, Aphrodite of Paphos.

The city of Nea Paphos was established on the south-western part of the island at the end of the 4th century BC.CC BY-SA 2.0

Professor Młynarczyk said: “Further tasks stand ahead for our archaeological team connected to the complex study of the sacred site at Fabrica, leading to the final identification of the God or Gods honoured here in the Hellenistic and early Roman period.”

Polish scientists have been working at Nea Paphos for several decades since archaeological digs were first initiated by archaeologist Professor Kazimierz Michalowski.

Today, Polish archaeological missions from the University of Warsaw and the Jagiellonian University of Krakow operate on the site in collaboration with international institutions.  

The archaeological mission led by Professor Młynarczyk operates with a ‘Harmonia 8’ grant from the National Centre of Science in collaboration with the University of Avignon, represented by Professor Claire Balandier.