Six architectural firms have been shortlisted in an international competition to design protective shelters for the Paphos mosaics, considered among the finest in the eastern Mediterranean.

The department of antiquities said the shortlisted firms will now be asked to submit a concept design for the final selection.

The concept design for protective shelters is part of the department’s collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, which began in 2018 the development of a comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the World Heritage sites of Nea Paphos and the Tombs of the Kings as the department seeks to apply the most recent international achievements to the management of the cultural heritage of Cyprus, i.e. to archaeological sites, monuments and museums.

The procedure for the design of protective shelters was launched in April 2019, when a meeting was held in situ, with the participation of international specialists from various fields of expertise, including architecture, engineering, environmental monitoring and hydrology.

All experts had previous experience with shelters in other World Heritage sites. The purpose of this meeting was to study, exchange knowledge and decide on the requirements and criteria for the design.

The mosaics form part of the Archaeological Park of Kato Paphos, which has been included in the Unesco World Heritage Sites list since 1980. They were discovered in 1962 after a farmer ploughing his field accidently unearthed one of them.

The Houses of Dionysos, Theseus, Aion and Orpheus are the villas of four Roman noblemen that date from the 2nd to the 5th centuries AD. Their intricate floor mosaics depict various scenes from Greek mythology.

The 556 square metre floor mosaics at the House of Dionysos are decorated with mythological, vintage and hunting scenes. There is also a Hellenistic pebble mosaic representing the mythical sea-monster Scylla at the entrance.

The House of Theseus is named after its oldest mosaic of the Ancient Greek hero brandishing a club against the Minotaur. Newer mosaics depict Poseidon and Amphitrite and Achilles´ first bath.

The House of Orpheus has floor mosaics depicting Orpheus among the beasts, two panels representing Hercules and the Lion of Nemea, and an Amazon with her horse.

The House of Aion has the most spectacular mosaic of five figural panels depicting the newborn Dionysos; Leda and the Swan; the beauty contest between Cassiopeia and the Nereids; Apollon and Marsyas, and the Triumph of Dionysos.

The park also includes other sites and monuments from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, such as the Asklepieion, the Odeon, the Agora, the Saranta Kolones (Forty Columns) Castle, and the Limeniotissa ruins of an Early Christian Basilica.