A floor mosaic depicting charioteers and their horses from more than 1600 years ago is being hailed as a truly remarkable find in Cyprus.
The 11 metre long by four metre wide floor was unearthed during archaeological excavations at Piadhia, in the village of Akaki in Nicosia.
Building remains – possibly those of a wealthy nobleman’s villa during the era of Roman rule – were uncovered just below the surface at the site. They have been painstakingly excavated under the supervision of archaeologist Dr Fryni Hadjichristophi.
The mosaic floor, showing four charioteers driving teams of four horses, was found in the northern part of the building. It depicts racing action in a purpose-built venue and is adorned with rich geometric decoration.
Each team of four horses is driven by a standing charioteer. There are two inscriptions in Greek which probably indicate the names of the horses and the charioteers.
The mosaic also depicts a circular platform on which the charioteers could turn their teams of horses. There are also three columns, each topped with a dolphin from which water flows.
Two standing figures are also shown, one holding a whip and the other a vessel with water.
The mosaic has been dated to the first half of the 4th century AD.
The Department of Antiquities says the floor was made to a high standard and is in an impressive state of preservation.
The discovery of the building’s remains in what is a remote area of Cyprus provides new important evidence for this period on the island.
Transport Minister Marios Demetriades hailed the floor as a truly remarkable find that highlighted the enormous ancient heritage of Cyprus.
The director of the Department of Antiquities, Marina Ieronymidou, told local journalists that it was an extremely important finding because of the technique used in its construction and the theme.
“We will continue the excavations in a scientific way and we hope that this area will eventually open to the public,” she said, adding that there were signs that other important finds would be unearthed there.
Officials said temporary structures would be erected over the floor to protect it.
Remarkably, a small portion of the mosaic was first discovered in 1938 by a local farmer tilling the soil. Excavation work took nearly 80 years to get under way because of the scale of work at other antiquities sites.