Peristeries Sanctuary Area B.D7

Peristeries Sanctuary: Overview

Photo of excavation site B.D7 phases


This sanctuary was excavated as part of the Princeton Cyprus Expedition. It is located at Polis Chrysochous, Cyprus, where the ancient city of Marion was once situated. The sanctuary sits atop the Peristeries plateau. Today all that remains of the sanctuary is its foundations. Using information from the excavations, we present a digital reconstruction of the site through its multiple phases as well as several of the objects found in and around it.

The Peristeries Sanctuary belongs primarily to the Cypro-Archaic period (ca. 700/650-450 BCE). It is located in the East of the ancient city of Marion (founded ca. 800 BCE, destroyed in 312 by the Egyptian army of Ptolemy I), 1 km East of the modern town center of Polis, in the Princeton grid area B.D7. Sanctuaries such as Peristeries were known to be centers for religious, social, and artistic expression, mostly frequented by the community as a whole, and they were found throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. Given its central location and that it was surrounded by the houses and workshops, it is fairly certain that the sanctuary served as a community focal point, a very important building within urban fabric of Marion.

The sanctuary has remains dating as early as the 10th century BCE and as late as the first part of the 5th century BCE. Its four phases span the Cypro-Geometric III, Cypro-Archaic, and the beginning of the Cypro-Classical periods. The earliest phase only consisted of a large pit east of the temenos that was once used as a cistern, but was later reused as a bothros (a waste pit, or an older pit used for the cleanup and burial of votives). For this reason, only the second (from now on, “early”), third (or “main”), and fourth (and “last”) phases were represented in the 3D model. The bothros is present in all the phases. The primary building materials used were limestone, basalt, and mud-brick.

Early cult places such as this sanctuary were often irregular (asymmetrical) in their shape. The spread of wall fragments found suggest that it was about 2m in height. The votive dedications found cover an excavated area of over 1,100 square meters.


To give additional historical and cultural context for the sanctuary at Peristeries, this timeline presents significant events in Cypriot history during the time of the sanctuary’s use:

  • 9th Century BC: Phoenician penetration in Cyprus begins
  • ca 750 BC: Neo-Assyrian Empire dominates Cyprus
  • 674/2 BC: Prism of Esarhaddon records by name 101 kingdoms and their heads of state in Cyprus
  • 545 BC: Cypriot kings swear allegiance to Persia
  • 498 BC: Cyprus joins Greece in rebellion against Persia. The revolt fails.
  • 475 BC: Cyprus becomes the base for the Persian navy.

Using this Website

Now that you have read through the overview, feel free to explore the rest of the site! Here are some tips for what you can find where:

  • The "Phase Models" tab shows the progression of the site via 3D models. Each of the three primary phases (early, main, and late) are presented in a way that highlights the uncertainties in hypothesizing what the site would have been like at the time. Seeing these phases side by side allows you to understand how the site progressed and which components may have been reused between phases. We also present a more realistic, textured version of the main phase to give you a more concrete idea of what the sanctuary may have been like, using just one set of hypotheses out of many. Also, in this model, you can click on some of the objects to find out more about them.
  • The "Object Models" tab highlights several of the objects found at the site and gives details about where they were found and what they may have been used for. Each is accompanied with a 3D model with which you can interact.
  • The "About the Project" tab provides general informaton about the course project, the people involved, the resources used, and the technologies involved in creating this website.

Note: This website works best using Google Chrome.

Main Phase (Cypro-Archaic II)

Early Phase (Cypro-Archaic I)

Main Phase (Cypro-Archaic II)

Late Phase (Cypro-Classical I)


Astarte Figurine

Astarte figurine

The Astarte figurine, a votive with Phoenician antecedents, was discovered inside the Peristeries Sanctuary. It consists of a woman holding her breasts, and therefore represents female fecundity, nudity, human sexuality, and fertility. It is generally considered to represent the Near Eastern goddess Astarte and it therefore confirms the nature of the divinity who received worship. However, the scholarly debate remains on to whether they were intended to represent the goddess or priestesses who were devoted to her worship, or sacred prostitutes who are mentioned in literary sources and considered as part of the cult. Some of its Near Eastern features include the disk pendant at her throat, her teardrop pendant, and her beaded earrings. It used to be colored with red, black, brownish, and yellow pigments. Unfortunately, it is broken at the waist level, and the tips of her ears and nose are missing. Her lower body would have had the pubic triangle emphasized, a common feature in other Astarte figurines found elsewhere on the island, The Astarte Figurine is 9.59cm in height, 6.03cm in width, and has an approximate thickness of 3.26cm. It iis currently located in the Local Museum of Marion and Arsinoe.

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Bichrome Amphora with Horizontal Handles

Bichrome amphora

This amphora with horizontal handles was found in tomb 84, and it is only 38.3cm in height. It is made of terracotta and has some painted decorations (not represented in the 3D model). It has solid black horizontal lines and reddish stippled areas. The circles would have been black, and the unpainted background was probably a buff (light tan) color.

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Bronze Vessel

Bronze vessel

This vessel was found in the eastern central room of the main building, which was one of the treasury rooms. Vessels such as these were commonly used in Cyprus throughout the 6th century BCE. They were often made of either bronze or silver, and varied in how flat or deep they were. This one is an example of the deeper kind, and is about 6cm high and just over 15cm wide. Its rim is reinforced by the layer of metal being folded over to twice its original thickness. There are also bubbles on the surface resulting from intense heat, which is most likely due to the fire that destroyed the sanctuary in approximate 500 BCE. These vessels were most likely used for preparing and drinking wine. Most of them were found along the edges of the central wall of the building; this suggests that they were hung on the wall or stacked on a shelf or shelves.

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Female Figurine with Uplifted Arms

Figurine with uplifted arms

This figurine of a female with uplifted arms has been discovered in many sanctuaries across Cyprus that are devoted to a particular female goddess associated with fertility, known as the Great Goddess. It stands about 12cm tall and Is made of terracotta with red and black paint, which has since faded. The upraised arms with outward-facing palms is a gesture of reverence in ancient Near Eastern cultures. The figurines are always female, and are thought to represent a priestess, a worshiper, or perhaps even the Great Goddess herself, although there is no evidence to support this. These figurines characterize the most common dedications at Peristeries, and date back to the late 9th century BCE (the later Cypro-Geometric period).

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Incense Burner with Petals

Incense burner with petals

This incense burner, approximately 22cm tall, was found in the easternmost room of the main building -- the "holy of holies" room. It is made of ceramic and we can see traces of red and black paint on the petals around the stand. However, they can be made of other materials, such as bronze, and can have anywhere between one and three rows of petals. Incense burners similar to this one were widely used throughout Phoenicia and southern Levant in the early first millennium BCE. However, in Cyprus, they were primarily used during the Cypro-Archaic period for burials and in sanctuaries like this one. Traces of burning in the bowl at the top indicate that the incense was burned there. It was likely used to set the mood for a person trying to engage in communication with the deity. The burner was broken into several pieces and repaired, although the bottom portion and some of the petals are still missing.

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Incense Burner without Petals

Incense burner without petals

This incense burner was found in the easternmost room of the main building, the “holy of holies” room. Although we do not know much about this object, we do know that it has no traces of burning, and it is possible that the ribbed part of the object was a stand of some sort. Could it perhaps have been used to store or pour water? Or maybe the bowl on the top was used to place another container with incense? We don’t really know for sure.

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Levantine Statuette

Head of the Levantine statuette

This statuette of a Levantine female was one of many votives found in the bothros. It is made of terracotta, with traces of red and black paint. This statuette is distinctive because of both the ethnic features of her face -- such as the long hooked nose and almond-shaped eyes -- as well as the style of her dress, which was not commonly seen in female votives. Although the lower arms and lower body have been broken off, we see that her arms are bent at the elbows in a position typical of prayer. Cypriot sculptures put greater emphasis on the head over the body, which explains why the head is disproportionately large. Two holes were found in the back of the torso, indicating that the statuette was likely hung from a wall. When the sanctuary was destroyed by fire, the head was twisted from the body in a symbolic "killing" or desanctification of the votive.

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Nubian Head

Nubian head

This terracotta head of a Nubian female was recovered from the bothros. It is approximately 24cm in height -- nearly life-sized. The fact that the votives recovered from the Peristeries sanctuary represent various ethnicities (such as the Nubian head, Levantine statuette, etc.) implies that people from several different areas of the eastern Mediterranean have been to the ancient city of Marion, and perhaps had an influence on it.

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Pithoid Amphora

Pithoid amphora

This monochromatic amphora was made of terracotta, and is very light tan (buff) in color. It is 90cm in height. It was probably used for the storage of solid and liquid materials, and it would have been a typical amphora found in the storage room (located in the main building in the temenos).

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Sacred Tree

Sacred tree

Sacred trees such as this one were a common votive gift in the sanctuary at Peristeries. In fact, over 40 sacred trees were discovered in the remains, each one unique from the others. These trees vary widely in form, but often include either a net pattern or series of loops over a central pole. This one, made of terracotta, stands approximately 10cm tall and is made of a partially hollow cone, covered with three tiers of handmade loops. These trees are thought to refer to the female divinity who reigns over human fertility and the bountifulness of nature, and possibly even represent her.

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Torpedo Amphora

Torpedo amphora

This monochromatic terracotta amphora was actually found in tomb 84, but we believed it serves as a good representation of the fragmented amphora found in the ”holy of holies” room. It is 41.3cm in height, and light orange in color.

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About this Project

About the Project

This website was created as a class project for COS/HLS/ART 496: Special Topics in Computer Science - Modeling the Past: Digital Tech and Excavations in Polis Cyprus, Spring 2014 at Princeton University. The course was co-taught by Professor Joanna Smith of the Art & Archaeology Department and Professor Szymon Rusinkiewicz of the Computer Science Department. This website, created by undergraduate students Gina Triolo '14 and Silvana Alberti '14, with additional input from Frances Steere '16, includes models created by these students as well as a few models from the previous offering of the course in 2012 (specifically the Main Phase building model). We would like to thank the professors, fellow students in the course, and the guest lecturers for all of their support in creating the final product.

Browser Compatibility

This site uses X3DOM, an open source framework for integrating 3D content into HTML5 web pages. For the site to work properly, you must be using a browser which is WebGL-enabled. Google Chrome (version 9.x and above) and Mozilla Firefox both support WebGL natively. If you are using Safari (version 5.1 and above on OS X 10.6 above), you must enable it through the Developer menu ("Preferences" > "Advanced" > "Show the Developer menu in menu bar"). For use with Internet Explorer, you will need to download either the InstantReality plugin or Adobe Flash 11.