Cyprus Archaeology

By | December 15, 2021

Since 1960 no Neolithic excavation has been carried out but only a series of surveys which, especially on the northern coast of the island, have allowed the identification of numerous sites from that era. The Neolithic deposit of Khirokitia, which had returned a primitive Neolithic with tholos houses and stone vases, was dated by Carbon 14 to 5800 BC. A series of idols in soapstone belong to the Chalcolithic period, which begins around 3000. in the Paphos region on the south-west coast: the ceramic material with red paint on a white background dates back to the same period.

Vast necropolises (Dhenia, Limassol, Vounous, Kalopsidha) already known and which have increased the repertoire of vascular forms of this period belong to the Bronze Age; important for the relations with Minoan Crete so poorly documented, the discovery of a polychrome cup in the style of Kamares found in Palaealona, ​​near Kyrenia, on the northern coast, in a tomb of Middle Cypriot I (1800-1750); also in the district of Kyrenia a fortress found in an elevated position and precipitated surrounded by a wall with a double curtain with bastions, testifies together with those already known, the turbulent conditions of the eastern Mediterranean following the invasion of the Hyksos. For Cyprus 2003, please check

The locations of Enkomi and Kition on the south coast have revealed other aspects of Late Bronze Age civilizations. In Enkomi, a sanctuary with sacrificial altars and platforms for offerings, in use between the 13th and 11th centuries, has returned votive figures of two great two-headed bull-bodied centaurs and a bronze statuette depicting a standing young man with a helmet with horns, greaves, spear and shield: perhaps the god of Alasia, protector of copper mines. In the city, the road network, the circuit of the walls and a beehive tomb in adobe, the first of its kind found in Cyprus, have been brought to light. A terracotta seal was also found with more than 150 signs of the still unknown Cypro-Minoan alphabet, engraved before firing. The city was destroyed in the 11th century;

Kition has been unearthed and identified as a large Late Bronze Age city near today’s Larnaca in a location occupied by an Early Bronze Age necropolis. The city of Late Cypriot II was an important center for copper processing; it was surrounded by an unfired brick wall reinforced by ramparts; the rooms of the houses were open on rectangular courtyards, which were used as family burial grounds. As evidence of the prosperity of trade with the West and the East that the city enjoyed, a considerable amount of Mycenaean pottery has been found, splendid examples of embossed goldsmithing, faience vases. The city was destroyed towards the end of the 130th century; on its ruins arose a city with a completely new layout, possibly associated with the Achaean colonizers, which remained active for about 30 years when a new destruction took place; at the end of the 12th century there was a large settlement of Greek colonists who perhaps fled the Doric invasion. Between alternating events of destruction and reconstruction, life continued until the geometric period, when the city center moved towards the sea and a large Phoenician sanctuary was built on the remains of the bronze city, which remained alive until the classical period.

On the northern coast, important discoveries relating to contacts with the Mycenaean world have been made at Toumba tou Skourou, and at Haghía Irini near Morphou.

The protogeometric and geometric period of the island attests great poverty and an interruption of trade with Greece; towards the beginning of the geometric period the first Syro-Palestinian influences will begin to be felt which in the 8th and 7th centuries will have a preponderant role in the culture of the island.

In the plain of Salamis, 7 large chamber tombs built in large square blocks have been found – one of the tombs was covered by a mound – which is accessed via a propylaum with steps to which a descending dromos leads, into which, during the funeral, horses or donkeys yoked to the cart were sacrificed: animal skeletons were found with a wide range of bronze and ivory harnesses; the imprint of the wood of the wagons remained in the ground and all their metal parts were preserved. In the tombs a large congerie of 7th century vases, lebeti, many weapons was found; in one of these tombs a throne covered with ivory plaques with gilded back was found, an ivory bed with plaques carved with sphinxes, oriental scenes that are very similar to ivories from the palace of Nimrud.

Alongside this group of tombs which, due to the opulence of the grave goods, are supposed to belong to members of the nobility, modest tombs have also been found in another area of ​​the necropolis which remained in use until the classical period. The cenotaph of King Nicocreon, the last king of Salamis, who committed suicide with his family in 311 in front of the victorious Ptolemy, seems to have been identified in the perimeter of the same necropolis: fragments of terracotta portraits, perhaps of members of the Royal family. A villa found in Paphos dates back to the Roman period with a splendid 3rd century mosaic floor depicting Pyramus, Thisbe and Dionysus with the nymph Akme. In Kourion, the only stadium on the island has been identified, which was inaugurated in the 2nd century and remained in operation until about 400; in Salamis, in addition to the gymnasium and the thermal baths, an imposing theater with a monumental cavea and stage was found; in the same locality a large basilica built by Bishop Epifanio dates back to the Byzantine era.

Cyprus Archaeology