Cyprus: Antipodeans and the hidden weaves of antiquity
Cyprus is an island of ancient hybrid cultures in the eastern Mediterranean: polyglot, insular, luminously beautiful, but also edgily divided against itself in bitter politics that is symbolised through the religious divisions between Orthodox Christianity and Islam. Andros is the largest island in the Cyclades, characterised by silent immensities and hills sculptured with schist walls and paths from another time. In 1967 and 1973, I attended a University of Sydney study season in Andros, under Alexander Cambitoglou, making archaeological drawings and weaving at night. Since 1995, I have participated in the excavation of the theatre in Paphos, in western Cyprus, directed by Richard Green and Craig Barker and have observed the gradual uncovering of the orchestra, stage building, and entrances of the Greco-Roman theatre.
This essay uncovers my own experience within the larger story of how Australians have come to be in Cyprus, and, later, in Andros, digging up their pasts. Is there a reverse colonialism in this movement to excavate another country’s past? Beginning with James Stewart in 1937, I trace the movement of Australian archaeology on these two islands.
Delving into the worlds of classical antiquity is, I argue, related to the historical European confrontation with the large scope of Indigenous antiquity. Through working with the Tiwi on Bathurst Island off northern Australia, I sense that there is a kind of Aboriginality in searching the classical past.