Mystery skeleton found at ancient Cypriot site

Wed Oct 6, 2010 6:11am EDT
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NICOSIA (Reuters Life!) - Experts in Cyprus are trying to unravel the identity of one of the island's older inhabitants, after a skeleton was discovered protruding from a cliff in one of the island's richest archaeological sites.

The intact skeleton was found at Curium in the southwest of the Mediterranean island renowned for its links to the ancient world. The earliest settlements here can be dated as far back as the Neolithic age, about 4,500 BC.

Experts believe the skeleton came to the surface due to years of erosion from the sea. The discovery is reminiscent of three skeletons found embracing in the same area back in the 1980s, the likely victims of a strong earthquake which hit the area around 365 AD.

"It looks like an isolated grave close to the coast," said Maria Hadjicosti, director of the island's Antiquities department.

"It's not a contemporary grave. It is over 200 years old or from the Middle Ages or possibly the Christian period. It's difficult to date because we found nothing else buried with it."

The fact that the grave is facing east-west could also suggest it is a Christian burial, she added.

Previous excavations have unearthed ancient cemeteries which are dotted around the area, which may shed some light as to how old the skeleton is.

Experts now trying to date it say the bones were probably those of an adult, Hadjicosti told Reuters.

(Reporting by Sarah Ktisti; Editing by Steve Addison)