University students work with injured soldiers in unique archaeological project

A unique collaboration between archaeologists and injured Service personnel sees them pitted in a race against time to discover the secrets of an ancient Roman harbour in Cyprus before they are lost forever to the sea.

On the shores of Dreamer’s Bay, on the Akrotiri peninsula at the southernmost tip of Cyprus, ancient buildings are being eroded away by the sea. They comprise part of a larger unknown ancient harbour settlement, now inside the UK Royal Air Force’s busiest operational base. The remains are being investigated through a collaborative archaeology project, involving civilian archaeologists and injured UK Service personnel, between 3 and 17 September 2016.

The archaeological expedition to Akrotiri, comprising staff and students of the University of Leicester, UK, will be joined by a team of injured military personnel and support staff under Operation Nightingale. Operation Nightingale is an award-winning project which seeks to help UK Forces personnel and veterans, who have been injured mentally or physically on operations or in other circumstances, to make additional progress through engaging them in archaeology.

The archaeological aim is to explore the extent, nature and history of the ancient port at Dreamer’s Bay, which presents a unique opportunity to study a relatively undisturbed stretch of archaeological landscape at a time of rampant commercial and touristic coastal development in Cyprus and the Mediterranean.

The archaeological fieldwork will be conducted by a team of academic staff and students from the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, and professional field archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), the School’s fieldwork contracting arm.

It will be led by project director Professor Simon James, and field director Ms Vicki Score of ULAS. Colleagues from the University of Southampton will also be present, to investigate the formation of the peninsula, and prospects for documenting the underwater archaeology of the harbour in future collaboration with Leicester. The project also aims to develop collaboration with Cypriot archaeologists.