Palace beneath vegetable market

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Workmen breaking ground for a new town hall have stumbled across what are believed to be the 800-year-old remains of the Frankish palace of the Lusignans, whose exact whereabouts were a mystery for centuries. The discovery, in the heart of Nicosia, is a boon for scholars who enjoy a rich amount of literature from the history of medieval Cyprus, but very little in the way of tangible evidence on the ground. The Lusignans were a French noble family that ruled Cyprus from 1192 to 1489. They built three palaces in Nicosia. Only small parts of the third and last palace still stand in Turkish-held northern Nicosia. «I suppose that yes, we have found some foundations of the palace, which was the first of the Lusignan palaces,» said Pavlos Flourenzos, curator at the Cyprus Museum and deputy director of the Department of Antiquities. The first palace was completed in 1211 and destroyed in about 1373 in clashes with Genoese forces for control of the city. Stone walls more than a meter thick and more than three meters high in places have been found at the site, along with fragments of pottery and wall paintings. The area, roughly just larger than a football pitch and for decades used as an open-air vegetable market on Saturdays, revealed what appeared to be artifacts when workmen began to dig the foundations for a new Nicosia town hall. The site, in an otherwise run-down area of the old city abandoned by its original residents and now a hub of workshops during the day and bars at night, was fenced off yesterday. «Work has stopped for two weeks for excavations. We will have to assess what we have found so far,» said Flourenzos.

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