The Archaeological Research Unit (ARU) of the University of Cyprus, the first research unit of this academic institution, was founded in 1991 by decree of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, following the issuing of the relative legislation by the House of Representatives. Its primary aims were to conduct active research and to teach the ancient culture of Cyprus and neighbouring civilisations in the Mediterranean. The decision to establish the ARU was based on the recommendation of the Interim Steering Committee of the University of Cyprus, which stated the following:
(a) Cyprus is offered for primary research in the field of archaeology thanks to its distinctive cultural signature and history, as well as due to the fact that Cypriot archaeology and archaeological research on the island already has a distinguished tradition and international reputation.
(b) The subsequent international recognition of the importance of archaeological research in Cyprus should comprise one of the first incentives for choosing the University of Cyprus as a centre for postgraduate studies, and will pave the way for the exchange of students and academics between the University of Cyprus and academic institutions overseas.
The senior members of the ARU, who are also part of the academic staff of the Department of History and Archaeology, have contributed immensely over the past 29 years to the achievement of the aforementioned objectives for the study and promotion of Cypriot cultural heritage through their research, their teaching and the practical training they have been providing to students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The active study of other regions of the Mediterranean world have not been overlooked either, as members of the ARU academic staff have been carrying out excavations and research projects in Greece, Turkey and France.
The first archaeologist employed by the University of Cyprus was Vassos Karageorghis, Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology and former Director of the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus, a scholar with an international profile, who undertook the initiative for the establishment of the Archaeological Research Unit and served as its first director.
Demetrios Michaelides, Professor of Classical Archaeology, who was soon added to the academic staff of the ARU, succeeded Prof. Karageorghis as director of the Unit in 1996, and remained in service until his retirement in 2014. During the tenure of Prof. Michaelides (1996-2014), followed by Prof. Kassianidou (2015-2019), the ARU flourished and continued to function as an internationally renowned research centre.
After the appointment of Demetrios Triantafyllopoulos, Professor of Byzantine Archaeology, who is now also retired, the three main strands of archaeology were established at the ARU.
Prehistoric Archaeology is now taught and represented by two archaeologists: Prof. Maria Iacovou, who teaches the Protohistoric Archaeology of Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, and Assoc. Prof. Ourania Kouka, who teaches Aegean Prehistory.
The field of Classical Archaeology is currently represented and taught by Assoc. Prof. George Papasavvas, while Byzantine Archaeology is now represented and taught by Assoc. Prof. Maria Parani and Assoc. Prof. Athanasios Vionis.
Since the day of its foundation, additional members of the academic staff at the ARU have been representing other important fields in archaeology: Archaeometry and Environmental Archaeology, which are being taught by Prof. Vasiliki Kassianidou, Maritime Archaeology, taught by Assoc. Prof. Stella Demesticha, History of Western Art, taught by Assist. Prof. Michalis Olympios, and the Archaeology of the Pre-industrial World, was taught by Prof. Emerita Euphrosyne Rizopoulou-Egoumenidou until her retirement in 2013. In 2019, Apostolos Sarris, professor in the "Sylvia Ioannou Foundation" Chair for Digital Humanities, was added to the teaching and research personnel of the Unit.
In the course of the past 29 years, the ARU has laid very stable foundations in all aforementioned specialisations of the archaeological discipline, none of which existed at academic level in Cyprus before the Unit's establishment. Through their teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, all members of the ARU academic staff have been contributing to the formation of a new generation of Cypriot archaeologists, equipped with all the necessary knowledge and practical experience needed to excel in this scientific field.
A new and equally active group of postdoctoral researchers has been added to the dynamic team of the ARU in recent years (namely, Dr Anna Georgiadou, Dr Artemis Georgiou, Dr Theodora Moutsiou, Dr Giorgos Papantoniou and Dr Ourania Perdiki), some of whom are graduates of the University of Cyprus, together with a large group of doctoral students. Nineteen doctoral titles were granted in different fields of archaeological research by the Department of History and Archaeology up until 2019.
The Archaeological Research Unit's infrastructure is equally important and essential for archaeological research in Cyprus. The Unit's Library comprises one of the largest and up to date archaeological libraries on the island, home to more than 23,000 books and more than 9,000 volumes of archaeological journals.
The Archaeological Research Unit also possesses a set of advanced technical equipment not only for the recording of monuments and artefacts that come to light in the course of systematic excavations, but also for the laboratory analyses of finds, including the physico-chemical analyses of metal and ceramic artefacts etc. Moreover, the ARU houses highly important reference collections which include animal bones, rocks and minerals, seeds and charcoal.
Over the years, the Archaeological Research Unit has been very active in organising international conferences and workshops. ARU organised 60 international conferences up until 2019, while members of the academic staff have published the proceedings of a total of 20 scientific meetings held at the ARU. Members of the Unit have been working continuously towards the dissemination of their ongoing scientific work to the wider public. Thus, the ARU has been also been busy organising an established Series of Public Lectures (held every Monday evening) every semester since the first year of its establishment, in which Cypriot and overseas archaeologists present the results of their past and ongoing research.
The Archaeological Research Unit has been particularly successful in securing external-EU funding for its several research projects. The ARU has so far won 4 EU Marie Curie projects, the most important amongst them being the Marie Curie Initial Training Network 'New Archaeological Research Network for Integrating Approaches to Ancient Material Studies' (NARNIA), coordinated by Prof. Vasiliki Kassianidou. Having secured 4.6 million euros, NARNIA comprises one of the biggest and most successful European projects that Cyprus (and not just Cyprus) has ever won in the field of Humanities. Additionally, two Individual Fellowships in the Marie Curie Actions have been funding the postdoctoral research undertaken by Dr Artemis Georgiou, Dr Theodora Moutsiou and Dr Carmen Ting. The attraction of external funding from the national Research and Innovation Foundation (RIF) has been equally successful, considering that 8 different research projects by members of the ARU have been funded by the RPF.
The ARU academic staff has been particularly active in primary field archaeological research. Prof. Demetrios Michaelides had been excavating for many years the so-called 'House of Orpheus' in Nea Paphos, while Prof. Maria Iacovou has been excavating for almost a decade in Palaipaphos, where significant remains of this important ancient Cypriot Kingdom have been unearthed. Dr Athanasios Vionis has been undertaking an intensive archaeological surface survey in the region of Kofinou since 2014, while Dr Stella Demesticha has been excavating the highly important shipwreck at Mazotos, contemporary to and larger than that of Kyreneia. Prof. Vasiliki Kassianidou has been conducting field research over the past 20 years in metalliferous regions of the Troodos, especially at Mitsero and Skouriotissa. Dr George Papasavvas has been excavating the impressive sanctuary of Aphrodite and Hermes at Syme Viannou in Crete, while Dr Ourania Kouka has been coordinating excavations at the prehistoric sector of the Heraion in Samos. Finally, Dr Michalis Olympios has been participating in the study of medieval ecclesiastical monuments in France. Students of archaeology from the University of Cyprus have been having the opportunity to participate in all the aforementioned archaeological field projects, obtaining training, important skills and lifetime experiences.
It would be a great omission if the invaluable support of the University of Cyprus was not acknowledged. All academic members of the ARU owe special gratitude to the Rectorate authorities for always supporting both financially and morally the research carried out under the auspices of the Unit.
We are also grateful and indebted to the A. G. Leventis Foundation. It is thanks to their generosity that the Archaeological Research Unit is housed in a magnificent neoclassicising mansion (on 12 Gladstone Street), designed by the architect Theodore Photiades. The building was offered to the University of Cyprus in order to accommodate the Unit and its important archaeological library, after it was bought and fully refurbished by the Leventis Foundation. The A. G. Leventis Foundation has also been funding a number of research projects coordinated by members of the ARU academic staff.
Last but not least, the sincere collaboration at all levels between members of the ARU and the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus should be emphasised. We hope that this fruitful collaboration will be strengthened and enlarged in the near future.