Lambousa in Kyrenia, North Cyprus.
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Lambousa


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The ancient settlement of Lambousa, Northern Cyprus

Near the sunbathers and pleasure-seekers stretched out on Mare Monte beach in Northern Cyprus are the remains of Lambousa. Greek settlers may have come to the area as early as the 13th century BC, and Lambousa was certainly under Phoenician control in the 8th century BC. During Roman times, Lambousa flourished, as it was the port for the nearby town of Lapta. However, by the 13th century, due to frequent raids by Arabs and other factors, this ancient site in North Cyprus had been abandoned.

The famous North Cyprus fish tanks

Not much of Lambousa is accessible today, as most of the remains are inside the fence of an army camp. The only way to visit it is to walk from the Mare Monte beach along the North Cyprus coast, about a fifteen minute stroll. Once there, you can admire some large rectangular pools cut into the rock, some as big as Olympic swimming pools. These are Roman-era fish tanks, carved out to keep the fisherman’s live catches fresh and flapping for market. The tanks were fed with seawater through a sluice system driven by tides and wind, in order to keep the water fresh. The remains of the original Roman harbour wall can also be seen, but the two churches beyond are inside a military camp and therefore out of bounds. The large piles of rubble dotted over the site are not ancient houses, but the spoil heaps left by disappointed treasure-hunters.

The Lambousa Treasure of Northern Cyprus

In 1904, Lambousa yielded up a well-hidden secret in the form of 7th century Byzantine gold and silver objects, known as the “Lambousa Treasure”. The finds included silver plates showing the story of David. Probably buried to keep it safe from Arab raiders, the treasures are marked with an Empire seal, thus dating the finds to between 627 and 630. Unfortunately none of the treasure remains in North Cyprus, housed instead in the Cyprus Museum in south Nicosia, the Medieval Museum in Limassol, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the British Museum in London.