None Late Cypriot: (Late Bronze Age) 1650 – 1050 BC

Late Cypriot


Late Cypriot I & II

In Cyprus Late Bronze Age I (1650-1450BC) should more properly be seen as a continuation of the transitional period of Middle Bronze Age III.  It had been a period of disruption and unrest when many settlements ceased to exist and many of the iconic products of the EC III - MC II, such as plank figures and bowls decorated with figures were no longer produced and some of those of the late Bronze Age (such as the "Astarte" figures and White Slip ware) had not yet appeared.

However, in general The Late Bronze Age was a high point in world civilization. In Egypt it was the period of Ramases II and Tutmosis III, the warrior Pharaoh. The latter laid claim to Cyprus around 1450 BC and imposed a tax but his claim to have Conquered Cyprus was probably untrue.  Then from the 1430/ 1420 BC, Cyprus paid tribute to the Hitites, but Cyprus was not (except later very briefly) invaded. This latter was at the very end of the 13th century when the Hittites claimed to have defeated their navy and subsequently won a land battle. However despite these episodes Cyprus remained largely prosperous and peaceful until the middle of the 12th century BC and achieved a level of civilisation not equalled till the Archaic.

The production of copper enormously increased and this required much greater specialization, organization and control of production and distribution, which created new elites and Cyprus moved from local control by chieftains to overall control by a King based in Enkomi.  This Kingdom became known as Alasiya (or Alashiya).  It was at one time thought Alashiya might be a name for Enkomi but chemical analysis of tablets in Egypt from the High King of Alashiya suggest the clay came from central South Cyprus.  

The population increased and coastal towns grew up which exported huge amounts of Cypriot copper, in the form of large, flat ingots the shape of ox hides, as well as pottery, perfumes, opium etc with, among others, the Hittites (Turkey), Ugarit (Syria), Mycenaeans (Greece), Crete and Egypt. A Late Cypriot shipwreck found off Anatolia contained 10 tons of copper as well as pottery. Swedish axes from 1600 BC have been found to be made of Cypriot copper and in the Trojan war (about 1200BC) Homer says that his Greek heroes had armour made of Cypriot bronze.

The small scale luxury trade with Minoan Crete was enlarged by a flood of imports from Mycenae, whose pottery is found in many high status tombs.  Other luxuries such as carved ivory, faience and cylinder seals were imported from Egypt, and Syria. Writing was introduced early in this period, based on Minoan Linnear A (though there are a limited number of texts and the old Eteocypriot language, which was pre-Indo-European, is largely undeciphered.) 

Large, walled, grid-plan towns, such as Enkomi, grew up with some dressed stone houses, public buildings and sanctuaries containing walled courtyards (temenoi) and temples, containing stone horns of consecration (abstracted bull horns) as well as masks using real animal horns plus large numbers of bowls and other containers used in ceremonies (but almost no votive offerings in this period). Some have metal workshops with smelting furnaces, either opening off them or closely associated, indicating the divine protection of this important resource. There were also large centralized storage facilities (such as the hall containing 50 of giant pithoi, 1.5 to 2 metres high at Kalavassos (Aiyos Dimitrios).

Houses of a variety of construction techniques and qualities indicate an economic hierarchy. Typically an LC II house featured a few rooms built around 3 sides of a courtyard. Bathrooms are well supplied with cement floors, clay bathtubs and drains. At the start of the period they already had cisterns, benches, pits, bins and grinding installations.

Corbelled rectangular tombs were created and collective burial and secondary treatment of remains diminished.  New burials were no longer in cemeteries remote from settlements but close to houses.

Pottery from this period became much more diverse in type but the forms became generally more standardised and mass produced and were traded across the country. The principal types were Ring Base Ware and White slip Ware. Although a few wheel made pots were produced locally, especially in LCIII, the majority were still handmade. Elaborate bronze objects such as wheeled stands were made.

Late Cypriot III : 1200 -1050 BC.

To my mind this should be a new period of its own, not just a subheading. It was a period of major historic disaster, immigration and consequent change, culturally, socially, politically and artistically.

Attacks came from "sea peoples", who may have been the same Achaeans who created new settlements along the coast in this period.  Many of the major civilizations collapsed or were severely damaged. Mycenaean Greece, the Ugarit and Hittite empires disappeared (the latter already weakened by war with the Assyrians). Cypriot coastal cities, including Enkomi, Sinda and Kition, were destroyed and subsequently rebuilt. Though these never quite reaching their old level this was still a prosperous period and the 13th and 12th centuries BC were the high-point of copper production, which cleared much of the remaining forests.  Waves of refugees, including craftsmen and potters came from Greece, and aspects of Mycenaean civilisation, which had disappeared in Greece, were developed in Cyprus.  (Indeed, after this, in the Geometric period, influence reversed and flowed from the still literate Cyprus back to the Aegean.) It was a period of transition. Greeks gained more influence and Mycenaean artistic and political styles were copied and blended with local traditions, including possibly, towards the end of this period the start of division of the country into kingdoms. Base Ring and White Slip wares, which had dominated for so long, were replaced by Proto White Painted wares showing Mycenaean influence. Most pottery was now wheelmade.  Burial methods changed from rock-cut tombs with a dromos to shaft graves and iron started to be made in this period. Halls with a hearth appeared, imitating the Mycenaean Megaron. Indeed the Late Cypriot IIIB (1125 - 1050 BC) is called the Sub-Mycenaean period, and sometimes now considered part of the Iron Age. LC IIIA had been the peak of copper production but In the next, Geometric, period Cyprus was one of the first properly Iron-based civilisations. This division marks the point where iron becomes the chief metal, not because it was superior (indeed at first it was inferior) but because the original forests had largely disappeared and there was not sufficient wood to fuel the furnaces, whereas the previously ignored Iron could be extracted mechanically from the old slag.  The iron could not be heated hot enough to make it molten so it had to be forged to beat out impurities. With the closure of copper mines there is much evidence of a slump in population at the end of the Bronze Age which may relate not only to conflict but to the scarcity of metal for making ploughs and tools.  The bronze mines were reopened for a few hundred years in the Roman period when some of the forests had regrown. In addition the deforested landscape had much of its thin topsoil washed away and the silt made several of the old harbours unusable. Foreign trade, which had already ceased with the Aegean, almost ceased,  but was started up again in the Geometric period largely through the contacts of the new Phoenician settlements.

The last 50 years of this period is really the transition from Bronze Age to Iron Age.