Saturday, April 21, 2012

Exploring the Tombs

With unstructured time on their hands my Little Ones soon begin to quarrel, and – to my antiquated thinking – the t.v and computer are not acceptable alternatives to more active pursuits So continuing my holiday goal of showing my children more of their own country, the other day I packed Zenon and Leo into the car and drove to the Tombs of the Kings.

Lise and I often took our children when the big ones were small, and Alex and Sophia have a welter of memories of climbing around and exploring the massive site which includes tomb complexes dating from the 3rd Century B.C.E. But as Lise's and my broods increased, chasing small children and toddlers through around the pits and precipices of the area – while carrying babies in backpacks – became too much, even for us. The danger of a serious fall was all too real. I hadn't been since they fenced the place and made it a Must-See For Tourists – a decade ago it was unmanaged: no tickets, no fences, no sign-posts – just wildflowers, trees, the occasional snake, and the flavour of antiquity.

I met the usual grumbles with bland cheer: “Come on, you'll love it! We have a beautiful day and there's plenty to explore...” We joined a scattering of foreigners from tourbusses and rental cars, I paid my 1.50 Euro (the children were free), and we went in. To their surprise, the boys did love it. Leo pretended to be scared (“But there's dead people there, and bones!”) and was consoled with intermittant control of the Lumix, but Zenon's imagination thrived on the idea of ancient gentlefolk buried in the pits and plazas and he was determined to explore every one.

 At one point a camera-toting Frenchman rebuked Zenon for scaling a wall of native rock near one of the tomb complexes. “Hey!' he shouted. “Have a care. This is a place of history!” It was on the tip of my tongue to say something sharp like “As a Cypriot and an archaeologist (stretching it a little, ok) it's in my interest to preserve my children's birthright too!” I wanted to let him know that only recently has the site been fenced; that for centuries the local people came in, looted the tombs, grazed their stock, removed stones to use in their houses, camped and pic-nicked; that I didn't think that one little boy, knocking his foot against an unworked slab, would do a great deal of damage, especially when compared with the willful destruction done by developers when they find a grave during construction (The oldest well in the world was excavated by a friend after the bulldozers had already stripped off the top three metres. He was literally dodging in and out of machines as he catalogued the finds, and a maisonette in Kissonerga has been build over and around the site.) But I smiled benignly and refrained. He was only doing what he thought was right, so I told Zeen to be a bit careful and we went on our way through the fading wildflowers and spring sunshine.

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