The museum of the Sea - Thalassa Museum in Agia Napa

Hello everybody,

Behind every closed gate there is somebody ready to open it and let you step in. This is what happened at the Museum of the Sea in Cyprus. With a nice smile Mr. Fotos Kikillos the Director of Agia Napa Municipal Museum THALASSA welcomes everyday little and bigger guests. He takes care that everyone is diving in an antic world and takes the ship to enjoy a marvelous trip back in time, the old Cypriot time.
Mr. Fotos Kikillos has been appointed as the museum director since 2003 and he graduate the Sunderland University U.K.
To be sure that we will not miss to get on the ship, he will tell us an exciting story about how the vessel was brought in the Agia Napa Museum.

Izzy: The most attractive exhibits of the Museum is the Kyrenia II vessel that can be admired at the fourth section of the museum, a life size exact replica of the ancient ship of Kyrenia of the Classical period (400 B.C.), which was built in 1985. What is the story behind Kyrenia II vessel? Why it was build and what did the experiments concluded?

The ship of Kyrenia

In 1967, while diving at a depth of 52 meters off the port of Kyrenia, the Cypriot Andreas Kariolou came upon a mound of amphorae, which revealed the most important ancient shipwreck of Greek Classical times ever to be discovered. A scientific expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, led by Professor Michael Katzev worked for over ten years on excavating, raising, studying and restoring this unique find. Professor Richard Steffy, a specialist of ancient ships, reassembled the hull of this ancient merchantman that became known as the “Ship of Kyrenia”.
With some 75% of the timber of its hull preserved, it is the most complete ancient Greek ship known to have survived to our day.
The attentive study of the cargo, which included 404 wine and oil amphorae, almonds and scrap iron, as well as millstones that may have been part of the ballast, helped in retracing the itinerary of the ship’s last voyage. The crew utensils all found in sets of four are an indication that three men plus a captain manned the ship.
The discovery of the “Ship of Kyrenia”, which sunk around the year 302 BC, greatly enriched our knowledge of how, at the end of the Classical times and during the life of Alexander the Great and of his successors, merchant ships were built and how they sailed the Eastern Mediterranean.
Since 1973, the “Ship of Kyrenia” is in the Turkish occupied city of Kyrenia, displayed in a large hall of the Crusaders’ Castle arranged as a Museum.

Kyrenia II

In 1981, the Hellinic Institute for the Preservation of Nautical Tradition, based in Athens,started a project of experimental archeology aimed at researching how ships of the Greek Classical time were built and how they sailed in the Greek seas. The “Kyrenia Ship” was the ideal prototype. Harry Tzalas directed the project with active collaboration of Michael Katzev, Richard Steffy and Susan Katzev, who had first-hand information on all the details of the construction of the ancient ship. Using the same hell-first method of construction as in antiquity, the same material and with often the same tools as those of the ancient shipwright the “Kyrenia II” was built from 1982 to 1985 at Psaros Yard Perama, near Piraeus, Greece. A vast amount of knowledge was gained from the construction of this ship as well as during its sea trials. For over three years the :Kyrenia II” sailed the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean under different weather conditions totaling some 2000 nautical miles of experimental voyages. This included an autumn voyage from Piraeus to Cyprus in 1986 and a spring itinerary while returning to Greece in 1987. As was the case for the ancient ship, the “Kyrenia II” had a crew of four with Glafkos Kariolou, the son of late Andreas Kariolou, who first discovered the ancient ship, as her captain.
The “Kyrenia II” has been exhibited in several towns in Greece and in Cyprus as well as in New York, Nara (Japan), Seville and Hamburg. A large number of scientific publications deal with the various aspects of this pioneer program in Experimental Archeology.

Izzy:Loving husband and father of a little boy, Mr. Fotos Kikllios knows very well the demands of little children. The museum is his passion, reason for which he tries to make out of every visits, a memorable day for children, a day full of stories, a day to remember. Starting what age, kids will enjoy a visit at Thalassa Museum and what do believe they will love the most?
F.K.: Kids of 4 years old and above will be attracted the most by visiting the museum. These ages’ kids are fascinated by the marine life section, which included stuffed sea animals, such as turtle, seals, seabirds, fish and others. Moreover, they are well impressed by the massive impact of the ship. At the same level and while the visitors walks on a glass floor where a reconstruction of the old shipwreck is displayed, it is shown a documentary film about the excavations of the ancient ship and the preservation of it, which took place in the now occupied castle of Kyrenia.

Izzy: How can parents make a visit with their kids at the museum be a successful one? Is it a secret about how to captivate their interest for the exhibits?
F.K.: The kids should be prepared orally from their parents what they are going to visit and see. The usage of simple words regarding the exhibits, they are very useful in my opinion at these ages. The creation of a descriptive picture will aim the children to understand easily the exhibits, when they have them face to face.

Izzy: What can you tell us more about two of the museum exhibits which captivate my interest: the pigmy hippopotamus and elephants of Cyprus?
F.K.: The pigmy mammals reached Cyprus from the mainland by swimming. The reason for such animal migration is not clear, but it may have been due to over population on the mainland and / or decreased available food sources. Over time, these pygmy forms descended from their normal sized mainland ancestors. The small size of these once large mammals gave them greater mobility in the mountainous island environment.
Exactly when such animal migration arrived on Cyprus is not clear; geological observations of terraces yielding the bones suggest that it was sometime in the later Pleistocene, probably between 250,000 and 100,000 years ago.
The Cypriot pygmy mammals were indeed very small. An average adult hippopotamus is 3.5 - 4.5 meters long, over 1m tall, and weighs up to 4.5 tons. The Cypriot pygmy hippo, currently known from over 30 sites, would have been less then 1.5 meters long and 0.75 meters tall. Some of its unique characteristics are: its very small size; changes in molar shape; bone fusion and shortening in the lower limps; placements of the eyes and nose on a lower plane than in the large living hippopotamus; and the loss of foot pads. This evidence suggests that the Cypriot pygmy hippo was better adapted to walking than to swimming.
The modern Africa elephant is the largest living land animal, with a shoulder height of 3 - 4 meters. The Cypriot pygmy elephant, known form about a dozen sites, would probably have stood about 1m tall.
The visitor could admire in our museum, unique Cypriot geological and paleontological exhibits. In addition, to the authentic bones and skulls of endemic pygmy hippopotamus and elephants of Cyprus (phanourios minor) from Ayia Napa’s excavation site, audiences can be seen other fossilized exhibits such as sea-urchin and corals five millions years old, as well as pyrites, gypsum and others.

Izzy: I believe that one of the main objectives of a museum is the educate and the best way to do this is by involving kindergartens and schools to participate at various activities or even simple visits at the Museums. Do you have special activities, that are organized to help these educational establishments?
F.K.: As a museum, we conduct plenty of activities for adults and children. There is specific program for schools, which we run them through ought the academic year (September-May) for children of 9-11 years old that is related with the sea and history of the island. The children are actively participating in the program by excavating, playing and acting. Furthermore, scheduled tours of other age’s students are made as well.

Izzy: The oldest object in a museum is most of the times the one that will be always looked for. What is the oldest exhibit and how did it reached Thalassa Museum?
F.K.: One of the oldest exhibits of our museum is in our paleontological section, an Ammonite dated about 160000 years old. It was given to the museum by “The Pierides-Tornaritis Marine Life Foundation”, which is an associate of the museum.

Izzy: A place to relax after an interesting visit and a little shop will always be another attraction of every museum. Is there anything like this at Thallasa Museum?
F.K.: An attractively designed cafeteria, a gift shop, an open air amphitheater and a multi-purpose hall for periodic shows, lectures, seminars, and workshops supplement this contemporary Municipal museum complex. The museum’s shop has a variety of glass and ceramic handicrafts made in Cyprus, books, minerals, magnets, replicas of museum exhibits and others.
Izzy: If you were now in front of 15 children how would you try to convince them to visit the Thalassa Museum? What would you tell them?
F.K.: Once, in Ice Ages 80000 years ago, some massive elephants and hippopotamus decided to explore their little northeastern neighborhood. They had walked on ice for few days and suddenly arrived, in the tiny island of Cyprus. When, the ice melt, these kinds of animals found themselves in difficult situation, since they were not able to walk back home, but they had to live in the island. Meanwhile, their numbers were growing. From few, they became a lot, but experienced some problems with their food. Growing numbers of them led to a limited quantity of food. Due to that fact, century by century, they became small, narrow or as we refer on them as pygmy elephant and hippopotamus. They disappeared 8000 years ago and approximately 2000 after the first human arrive in the island. Probably, they slaughtered them for their leather and their meat to be fed.
In a cave in Ayia Napa, a reconstruction of it can be seen in our museum, they have been found the last decade, bones and skulls from about 170 such animals. The excavations are still going and new findings will be revealed soon.

Lots of sunny days from Izzy the Cypriot lizard!

Agia Napa Municipal Museum

Opening Hours:
Summer Season
( 01 June – 30 September)
Monday 09:00 – 15:00
Tuesday-Saturday 09:00 – 17:00
Sunday 15:00 – 19:00

Winter Season
(01 October – 31 May)
Monday 09:00 – 13:00
Tuesday- Saturday 09:00 – 17:00
Sunday Closed

Entry Fees:
Individual Group (10 or more)
General €4, €2.50, per person

High School &
University €2.50, €1.50 per person

Elementary &
Junior High School €1.50, €1.50 per person
Address: Kriou Nerou 14, P.B.: 30707, 5345 Agia Napa, Cyprus
Phone no: + 357 23816366

Map Location:

Additional information:

The THALASSA Municipal Museum is directed by the Pierides Foundation, in association with the Hellenic Institute for the Preservation of Nautical Tradition and the Tornaritis-Pierides Marine Life Foundation. It opened to the public, in August 2005 and it comprises the cornerstone for the local cultural infrastructure of Agia Napa-Cyprus. It has the sea as a subject-matter. It is the first museum of its kind across the Mediterranean region with main principle to present to the audiences, the local and foreign visitors, the impact and the significance of the sea upon the history of the island. The exhibits of the museum cover a chronological span, from pale ontological to prehistoric periods until present times.

The museum is a three story building made by marble, onyx, wood, metal and offers unique experiences appealing to all our senses with its ‘bird eye view’. It incorporates seven sections and the exhibits are presented with four different methods: in underground showcases, where the visitors are able to walk and view the objects from the top or in modern showcases. Other exhibits are freely placed in the museum whereas other the rest are hanging from the roof. All exhibits are spotlighted by fibre optics.