That’s correct – The Tomb of Kings does not contain any kings. The tombs themselves were built in the late 3rd century to early 4th century and the monarchy was abolished in 312 BC. However, while there may be no kings buried here, aristocrats and high officials were buried in these tombs.
The tombs were built underground, next to the sea, about 2 km North of Paphos Harbor. The burial grounds create a large necropolis which was designated as a UNESCO site in 1980. The tombs themselves were carved from the rock and, in general, resembled houses for the living. Some of the tombs were quite large and complex with frescos painted on the wall and beautiful columns. Some of the tombs were for only one person while other tombs could hold as many as 20 people.
A Brief History
Most likely, the people that were buried in these tombs were not Cypriots, but people relating to a foreign invader. At the time that the tombs were built, Cyprus was ruled by the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Their capital was the ancient city of Nea Paphos, which is where the tombs are located. Cyprus was a jewel for the kingdom as it produced copper, wheat, olives, and wine. As a result, the foreign ruler brought with them the way they traditionally buried their people. This is why you can only find tombs like these in this part of Cyprus. It is thought that about 100 high officials were buried in the tombs.
Excavations and Discoveries
The existence of the tombs has been known for centuries, but in 1783, an official excavation at the Tomb of Kings was noted in the writings of Richard Pockocke. But, about 100 years passed before archeological excavations began in 1870, led by Luigi Palma di Cesnola. 1n 1915, additional excavations were made by the Cyprus Museum curator, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that major excavations were undertaken under Dr. Sophocler Hadjisavvas.
Dr. Hadjisavvas was able to excavate 8 tomb complexes of various sizes. It was difficult to date the tombs as grave robbers and the sea had long before taken most relics and grave offerings, but they were able to date the tombs when they found some Rhodian amphorae (jars) which contained stamped dates on their handles.
You may notice that these tombs are similar to tombs found in Alexandria, Egypt, and you would be correct. Egypt and Cyprus had close relations at that time and probably shared some burial customs. However, you won’t find any mummies in the Tomb of the Kings! Archeological excavations are ongoing.
Closing Thoughts, Tickets and Suggestions
The park if open 7 days a week. The operating hours do vary depending on if it is summer or of it is winter, so be sure to check their schedule before heading to the Tombs of the Kings. The website says that it is wheelchair accessible and, while a wheelchair is able to get around on the ground level of the park, it will be a fairly rough ride. Also, the only way to actually get down to most of the tombs is by stairway.
I have to admit that I felt a bit like Indiana Jones as I explored the crooks and crannies of the tombs. And I really enjoyed the “hands-on experience as most sites are cordoned and controlled. I loved using my imagination to think about the history that surrounded me.
I would suggest a few tips that will make your experience more enjoyable. The first tip would be to prepare for the heat. We explored the site at mid-day, which was a mistake during the summer as the sun was brutal. Be sure to bring an umbrella or wear a hat. Also, bring water with you. A regular size bottle will suffice as the park does have at least two places where you can refill your water bottle. My second tip would be to wear shoes that have some grip to them. The ground is very uneven, and the stairs are uneven as well. It would be easy to stumble and fall. Third, be sure to keep an eye on younger children. There are several places where it would be easy for a child (or adult) to fall to the tombs below.
We would consider the Tombs of the Kings to be another must-see destination if you are staying in the Paphos area in Cyprus.