On my recent trip to Cyprus I made acquaintance with a village called Kouklia very near to Paphos airport, which I had not visited before in fact I don’t remember even hearing about it . This is odd because it is an important historical site situated in Palaipahos, ancient Paphos, which was once the capital of Cyprus. Kouklia is the site of a sanctuary dedicated to worshipping the goddess of fertility dating as far back as 12th century BC. A very interesting on-site video about the sanctuary pointed out that it is not completely understood which goddess the original site was dedicated too, possibly Ishtar and then transformed into Aphrodite by the Aegean immigrants. A massive conical piece of gabbro stone was worshipped as the representation of the goddess instead of an anthropomorphic statue, this would have been anointed with oil at the great festivals.
The site covers a large area where both an open and an enclosed hall would have stood housing several altars and votive offerings as well as monuments. For centuries it was an important site for worshippers from all over the mediterranean area and the site remained in use for a remarkable 1,600 years. To read more on this you might find this page of interest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kouklia. I spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering around the site and paying a visit to the museum. This is housed in part of the Manor House built by the Lusignans on the sanctuary site, re-using materials they gathered which would have once formed part of the original lime stone structures. Only parts of the original medieval building survived and the rest was re-constructed by the Department of Antiquities to house the museum and act as stores. The Manor House was built as the administrative and production centre for the sugar cane industry with plantations and mills next to it. Sugar Cane production was a lucrative industry for the rulers of Cyprus, brought to the island after the Crusades by the Arabs, this site provided valuable information about this activity when archaeological excavations were carried out by a Swiss- German team in 1980.
The museum houses some lovely early glass and pottery examples found on the site as well as a huge stone bath and what looks like a pottery stove but is believed to be a shrine. The wonderful vaulted Gothic Hall below, a fine example of Frankish architecture on the island, is now used for concert performances during the annual Pharos Chamber Music Festival held in Kouklia at the end of May http://www.pharosartsfoundation.org Although a hot day when I visited, I was cooled by a refreshing breeze as the sanctuary site is on a plateau with a fantastic view of the coast.