Sometime around dawn on July 21st 365AD, the inhabitants of the house were awakened by the braying of a mule, tethered to a heavy stone trough in an inner room.
As animals do, the agitated mule sensed the coming earthquake, so the thirteen year old girl, given the name of Camelia by the archaeological team, went to calm the frightened beast.
In an adjacent room an older man and woman were already up preparing for the day; they were most probably Camelia’s parents.
Across the courtyard in a small room, a young family had been sleeping until the braying began.
The nineteen year old mother, possibly Camelia’s sister, was resting on her right side, cradling her eighteen month old baby in her arms, while her husband was lying close behind her.
When the first, and weakest, of the earthquake’s three waves hit, lasting four seconds, roof tiles fell and plaster ceilings and walls crumbled weakening the main building.
The force of this tremor threw Camelia who was with the mule to the ground; it dislodged her silver-plated hair pin, identical to that worn by her mother. She was surely injured and covered in debris and tried to drag herself to the door.
In the neighboring room, Camelia’s parents were knocked down by the first quake’s force which also knocked down everything around them.
Caught in bed by the first tremor, the young family across the courtyard would probably not have suffered as much as the people in the main house. The mother grasped her child to her breast, its head resting on her right shoulder and its hands tightly clinging to her.
There was silence for about 5 seconds, a short interlude before the second, massive earthquake hit.
Camelia trapped on the ground in the small room was trampled by the terrified mule as it tried to get out when the second quake struck. Girl and mule were both crushed. The parents lay as they had fallen.
Clinging to one another in their bed, the young family across the courtyard met an equally tragic fate.
Unlike the house itself, the outbuilding in which the young family had been sleeping was not as solidly built as the main residence, thus offering them at least some chance of survival following its collapse.
Their room, however, was adjacent to what is thought to have been Kourion’s municipal market building, an imposing two-storey structure built of stone blocks weighing many hundreds of pounds each.
Already weakened by the earthquake’s first wave, this building toppled outward and crashed through the roof of the simple dwelling crushing the family.
As archaeologists removed layer upon layer of rubble, the grizzly sequence of events was revealed. The older couple lay covering themselves with their arms; Camellia smothered face-down during her desperate struggle to escape, the dead mule on her.
A laborer crushed with his cat were in a backroom. The young father’s left arm and leg thrown over his loved ones protecting his wife who cradled their child. The Christian father was unearthed as he had died, shielding his family from harm, the Christian ring only inches from his hand.
David Soren and Jamie James have told a story that few can tell.
It ends in a small museum in Episkopi on the island of Cyprus where rest the skeletal remains of a family, a Christian family who have held each other in love for over 16 centuries, still with the father’s Chi-Rho ring at their side.