Early Cypriot (Early Bronze Age I-III): 2300 - 2000/1950 BC

Cattle pulling the new ploughs allowed larger areas to be taken into cultivation, which started an expansion of the population that continued through the Early and Middle Bronze Age. Eventually the Philia culture hybridised with local Chalcolithic traditions, creating the Early Cypriot culture.  The flat bottomed Red-Polished Philia pottery gave way to a profusion of local, round bottomed variants produced in each settlement. The centre of pottery innovation in the early to middle Cypriot period was at first Vounous and then nearby Lapithos, both near the North coast. Southern pottery remained plainer and less innovative, and the culture may have been less hierarchical.

There were no towns yet.  Buildings in settlements were close-packed and shared walls. Access was by narrow lanes.  Houses were stone or more often mud-brick on a stone base, generally composed of a few rectangular rooms on one or two sides of a small courtyard. Walls and sometimes floors were rendered with lime plaster with low benches and hearths against the walls and pivot holes for doors. There were mortars sunk into the floor and lime plaster bins for storage jars and pots.  Pierced lugs on many smaller bowls and vessels suggest they may have been hung from pegs in the wall.  Stone grinders and scrapers were used in food production.  Although there are two ceramic depictions of thrones, and a few tables and possibly stools, most people probably sat on the floor to eat.  After the Philia period and until the End of the Middle Bronze Age almost all vessels had round bottoms (like many traditional African pots now), so large storage vessels sat in dips in the floor while others probably sat in organic rings (perhaps rafia). 

Staple foods comprised bread wheat, barley, chickpeas, and lentils, plus probably dairy products, while the major source of meat was sheep and goat, supplemented by venison, pork, and beef only for special occasions. This would have been extended with olives, berries, nuts and herbs, and seafood by the coast.  Wine and beer were drunk.  Wool, goat hair, and later flax fibres were spun and made into cloth. 

Although food production and some fabrication took place in houses and courtyards there were also mixed use workshops. The supreme example was discovered at Pyrgos Mavroraki near Limasol, where a complex of buildings contained copper smelting facilities, a perfume factory, an oil press with 500 litre storage jars, textile production and a winery.

Aside from some pit graves, burial was in rock-cut chamber tombs, which had a Dromos (a shallow pit or ramp outside, possibly used for rituals) leading through a narrow entrance (or entrances) into one or several chambers, generally cut into soft limestone, which were progressively re-opened and re-used and added to by a kin-group, sometimes for hundreds of years. Most of the complete objects we now have came from these tombs. They were a considerable distance from the settlements, though usually within sight of them, which suggests some nervousness about the dead. There seems to have been a fertility cult based around horned animals, principally the bull. The snake, representing the chthonic forces of death and rebirth was also represented, and late in the early Bronze Age images of birds proliferated in grave goods, possibly representing the spirit. Funerals may have been double: a cursory burial, followed later after only bones remained, by a major celebration when the bones were transferred to a family tomb.  This would suggest a possible cult of ancestor reverence.  It is probably misleading to make a distinction between sacred and secular in such early cultures.

These elaborate funerals involved feasting and the consumption of alcoholic drinks and were occasions for the assertion and display of status by the provision of food and grave goods, including pottery, bronze and gold objects. The most common are the simple bowls used by the participants but beside the normal jugs and bowls, more elaborate and imaginative composite pots with proliferating spouts and bodies appeared, plus scenic models, most probably made especially for funerals, and representations on vessels of activities and cult animals.   A little before 2000 BC the mysterious Plank Figures started to be made at Lapithos, which are found both in settlements and tombs and spread across most of the island.

As the Early and Middle Bronze Ages progressed signs of further social differentiation appeared in grave goods, probably created by the development of copper extraction and trade, but this did not produce distinctive elite dwellings.  By the Middle Bronze Age the whole island was occupied. More of the natural forest which originally covered the island was cut down to make farms and for fuel, especially for copper smelting, however the island remained known for its timber production through the later Bronze Age. 

Probably authority was still local and there is little sign of conflict.   It was not till the disturbed and transitional Middle Bronze Age III (1750-1650BC) that the few defensive forts appeared, probably to protect the copper trade routes to newly founded Enkomi on the East coast, from the Troodos mountains. A number of settlements were abandoned at this time but there is no evidence for foreign raiding for example by the Hyksos who were causing problems in Egypt.  At the same time the first towns were founded, mostly close to the coast where the growing international trade with other cultures, especially the Levant (Ugarit), Anatolia (ie South Turkey), Egypt and Crete, was producing the first luxury imported goods in exchange for Cypriot copper.

In the Middle Bronze Age (from a little after 2000 BC) the variants of Red Polished pottery were joined by other wares, principally White Painted Ware, which by the end of the Middle Bronze Age had become dominant.  This was later joined by others, principally Black Slip and Red on Black wares.