Davidson Archeologist Unearths Cypriot Past at Metrolina Flea Market
Michael Toumazou, a Davidson College archeologist who has conducted an extensive archeological dig for evidence of the past in his home country of Cyprus for the past 10 years, has uncovered a wealth of material in an unlikely place -- Charlotte's Metrolina Flea Market.
Toumazou was making a once-a-year pilgrimage to the huge flea market with his wife and another couple recently when they discovered small boxes containing about 130 glass photographic negatives made in Cyprus in the 1920s. He bought them immediately and says they provide a rich source of information about his homeland before modernization.
"From a historical point of view, these are probably as valuable as anything I've found in our Davidson dig there," he said. "These images capture the country as it was for centuries. One picture shows a man plowing the fields using the same methods that archeological evidence shows were used in 2000 B.C. These show the country in its old ways."
The entire collection shows plenty of farm animals and carts, but just one automobile. The images are in two sizes, 4-1/2" x 3-1/2", and 3-1/2" x 3-1/2", and are in mint condition. The boxes containing them are labeled with the mark of the Lumiere company, a famous French motion picture company, and indicate they were developed in Lyon, France. Toumazou acquired them from a dealer based in South Florida who had purchased them in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The images fall into three categories -- everyday scenes like markets, harvesting, pottery making and lace making; monuments, churches, and ruins; and landscape scenes. Several were taken in Toumazou's hometown of Famagusta, Cyprus.
Toumazou wants to research the origins of the pictures, which appear to have been made by a professional photojournalist, and hopes to publish them as a coffee table book. He will eventually donate the collection to a historical foundation in Nicocia, Cyprus.
During the past decade, Toumazou has developed one of the foremost archeological
sites in Cyprus near the village of Athienou. The Cypriot government
has been so impressed with his work that the site is being declared
an "official archeological park," that will include amenities to accommodate
The government is also building a museum in the village for display of artifacts found there. The National Science Foundation recently awarded Toumazou a $150,000 grant - his fourth award from that agency - to help students finance their participation in the field school he has developed at the site. The three-year grant will cover tuition, living expenses and travel costs for 10 undergraduates each year to join him for hands-on experience that will fully immerse them in the historical and cultural life of an area that has been the crossroads of civilization from the seventh millennium B.C. through modern times.
His annual seven-week "campaigns" at Athienou involve about 15 undergraduate students and 25 other academicians and specialists each summer. The site covers 2,500 years of Cypriot history, and contains tombs, a settlement, and a sanctuary. The sanctuary, which is the current center of archeological activity, was established in the seventh century B.C. and flourished for nearly 1,000 years.
During last summer's dig more than 100 pots were found, as well as hundreds of sculptures from miniature size to life-size. Other finds include four coins, two of which are imprinted with the head of Alexander the Great, stone vessels, utensils such as ash shovels, animal bones from sacrificial rites, beads, clay oil lamps, metal artifacts like pins and nails, and a gold necklace and finger rings.
Toumazou said he never dreamed then that the site would blossom into such a major endeavor. He said, "We've seen many of our labors come to fruition, not just in terms of changing students' lives or careers through the experience, but also making a significant contribution that's greatly appreciated by the government of Cyprus and the people in the area."
Toumazou noted that the village of 4,000 inhabitants has fully embraced the project, welcoming the Davidson group every summer "like swallows bringing the spring." He noted that the opportunity for students to be immersed in another culture is as valuable to students as their academic work.