NICOSIA, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- Cypriot archaeologists have unveiled an ancient mosaic depicting a race of multiple chariots that is unique in more ways than one, an Antiquities Department official said on Friday.
Fryni Hadichristofi, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation said during an on-site visit that the mosaic is unique among hundreds of ancient mosaics worldwide in that it is the only one in Cyprus to depict a chariot race and in a complete event at that in a hippodrome and also in that it was found in an unusual area.
"There are only seven chariot race mosaics in the world and most archaeological sites in Cyprus are to be found along or near the coasts where ancient cities and towns were built to take advantage of sea trade", she said.
This one was found almost in the center of Cyprus, a fact denoting that at a later stage there were inland towns flourishing on agriculture," Hadjichristofi said.
The mosaic was found at Akaki, a village built of the banks of a small river 30 kilometers west of the capital Nicosia, which is known for its fertile orchards watered by the river. It was actually discovered in 1938 by a farmer tilling his field, but it was marked for later excavation because of other pressing work.
She said that indications lead to the conclusion that the mosaic covered the floor of a house arcade belonging probably to a dignitary or a wealthy man of the Roman era of the 4th century.
"What makes this mosaic stand out is its ornate detail in striking colors and the presentation of complete scenes of several chariots with four horses each competing in a hippodrome scaled down to 24 meters, but otherwise complete in all its details," Hadjichristofi said.
She hypothesized that the chariots represented different factions competing with each other.
The chariots are in various stages of the race around the spina and the turning point, a circular area marked by four pillars and three columns on which copper dolphins were hoisted to count the rounds of the race.
Apart from the chariots a man on horseback and two on foot, one carrying a whip and the other a vessel with water, complete the scene. The entire scene of the race is enclosed within a band of ornate geographical themes.
"The hippodrome (from the Greek words "ippos" meaning horse and "dromos" meaning course") was a very important manifestation of life in both classical Greece and later Rome", she said.
Inscriptions in classical Greek capital lettering name the rider on each chariot and the leading horse.
Excavation will continue next year to unveil the entire 24 by 4 meters mosaic, remove scale and uncover the rooms of the building in a bid to collect more information about the way of life at the time.
What has impressed archaeologists is a large water cistern 14 by 10 meters which Hadjichristofi said played a central role in the life of the whole area.
"It is complete with underground pipes for filling the reservoir and taking water out of it," Hadjichristofi said.
Cyprus was a flourishing island in antiquity, controlling a brisk sea trade in the eastern Mediterranean. It was also a producer of copper timber and pottery, examples of which were found in neighboring countries.
"Many latest discoveries confirm that Cyprus was a rich place," said Hadjichristofi.
Last month the Antiquities Department presented another large scale mosaic, also about 24 meters in length, which was accidentally found by workers extending the sewerage system of the southeastern coastal city of Larnaca.
The mosaic representing all 12 feats of Herakles (Hercules in Latin), also a rare subject of mosaic making.