In the literature surrounding a lot of Cypriot archeological sites, the name of Luigi Palma di Cesnola (1832–1904) has attracted a fair amount of infamy. An Italian soldier of fortune, he fought on the Union side in the American Civil War, eventually winning the Congressional Medal of Honor. When the war ended, he was rewarded with an appointment as US consul in Larnaka, where he served from 1865 to 1877. A keen amateur archeologist, he spent his twelve years in Cyprus cheerfully digging up antiquities all over the island – especially from Kition in Larnaka, Idalion in Lefkosia, Amathus and Kurion in Lemesos and the Tombs of the Kings in Pafos – discovering, so he claimed, 35,000 items. Most of these he sold abroad, in particular to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (whose first director he became in 1879). Di Cesnola’s methods were unorthodox to say the least – leaving the bulk of the work to assistants he often invented discovery locations, rarely photographed finds, and exaggerated their signficance. And the accusations didn’t stop there – during his time at the Met he was accused of carrying out “deceptive restorations”, and of being insufferable to his staff. He died in New York in 1904, and is buried in nearby Valhalla.

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