The underground tombs, many of which date back to the 4th century BC, are carved out of the solid rock, and are thought to have been the burial sites of Paphitic aristocrats and high officials up to 3 AD (the name comes from the magnificence of the tombs; no kings were in fact buried here). Some of the tombs feature Doric columns and frescoed walls. Archaeological excavations are still being carried out at the site. The tombs are cut into the native rock, and at times imitated the houses of the living.
Although the tombs have been known and casually explored for centuries, they were first subjected to systematic excavation in the later 1970s and the 1980s under the direction of Dr Sophocles Hadjisavvas, now Director of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus.
Dr Hadjisavvas has turned over to research students of the University of Sydney the preparations of the finds for publication.
Part of the importance of the tombs lies in the Paphian habit of including Rhodian amphorae among the offerings in a burial. Though the manufacturing stamps placed on the handles of these amphorae, it is possible to give them a date and, through them, the other material from the same burial.
Thus, it is hoped to develop a more secure chronology for archaeological material in the Eastern Mediterranean of the Hellenistic and early Roman periods.
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