Late Cypriot (Late Bronze Age): 1650 - 1050 BC

Late Cypriot I (1650-1450BC) was a continuation of the transitional period of Middle Cypriot III.  It had been a period of disruption and unrest when many settlements were destroyed or abandoned and forts were built.  Most of the iconic products of the Early and Middle Bronze Ages such as plank figures disappeared, but many of those from the late Bronze Age (such as the "Astarte" figures) had not yet appeared. Almost all the old ceramic wares ended and new ones were created. There was a movement of population to the South and East coasts and towns started to develop. Late in this period writing was introduced, based (as was Mycenaean Linear B) on the syllabic Minoan Linear A script.  However,  there are a limited number of texts known and the Bronze Age Eteocypriot language is largely undeciphered.

Late Cypriot II (1450-1200BC) was a high point not just in Cypriot but in world civilization. Egypt, the Mycenaeans and Hittites were at their peak. In Egypt it was the period of Ramases II and Thutmose 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 1430/1420 BC, Cyprus paid tribute to the Hitites, but Cyprus was not invaded except very briefly in the late 13th century BC when the Hittites claimed to have defeated their navy and then won a land battle. However despite these episodes Cyprus remained largely independent, peaceful and prosperous until the middle of the 12th century BC and achieved a level of civilisation not equalled till the Archaic period.

The population increased and coastal towns grew up which exported large amounts of Cypriot copper, in the form of oxhide-shaped ingots, as well as timber, pottery and perfumes, in exchange for luxury goods such as faience and cylinder seals from, among others, the Hittites (Turkey), Ugarit (Syria), Palestine, Mycenaeans (Greece), Crete and Egypt. A Late Cypriot shipwreck found off Anatolia contained 10 tons of copper as well as pottery. 

To meet this demand production of copper enormously increased and this required much greater specialization, organization and control of production and distribution, which created new elites. Cyprus moved from local control by chieftains to domination by a ruler based in Enkomi, though there was no palace culture such as had existed for some time in dominant mainland civilisations. This Kingdom became known as Alasiya (or Alashiya) and  its ruler wrote to the rulers of Egypt and Ugarit as equals.

Large, walled, grid-plan towns, such as Enkomi, grew up with some dressed stone houses and public buildings, and substantial sanctuaries containing walled courtyards (temenoi) containing stone horns of consecration and cult buildings, with containers and bull masks used in ceremonies (but few votive offerings). 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 giant pithoi for oil, 1.5 to 2 metres high at Kalavassos Aiyos Dimitrios.

Houses in towns and in mining and agricultural settlements displaying a variety of construction techniques, sizes and qualities, indicate an economic hierarchy. Typically a Late Bronze Age house featured several rooms built around 3 sides of a courtyard. Tables and other furniture were in use. A few bathrooms were supplied with cement floors, clay bathtubs and drains. At the start of the period they already had cisterns, benches, large storage pithoi and grinding installations.  Gaming stones, cylinder seals, silver bowls and elaborate bronze objects such as wheeled stands were made. 

Burials in urban areas were now beside, or even in the courtyards of houses, though in the country extramural cemeteries continued. Most tombs continued to be rock-cut but a few Corbelled rectangular tombs and Tholos type tombs were created.  Collective burial diminished, though two stage burial probably continued. Many funerals must have been spectacular with very rich grave goods.

Pottery from this period became more diverse in type but the forms became generally more standardised.  It was mass produced in a few sites, mostly by men, and was traded across the island.  By contrast, Middle Bronze Age ceramics had been locally made in inventive local styles, perhaps mostly by women.  Wheelmade pottery was still the exception, unlike on the continent. Although some wheel made wares were produced, especially in Late Cypriot III, the dominant Base Ring and White Slip wares were still handmade. The earlier limited trade with Minoan Crete was dwarfed by a flood of Mycenaean pottery found in many high status tombs.

 

Late Cypriot III : 1200 -1050 BC

 Historically this was a period of major disaster and collapse regionally, with immigration and consequent change, culturally, socially, politically and artistically. However, compared to other regional powers Cyprus remained relatively stable until 1100 BC.

Attacks came from "sea peoples", who may have been the same Achaeans who created new settlements along the Cypriot 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). Egypt was severely stressed. Epidemics and famines from climate change may have been factors. 

In Cyprus there was great variation in how settlements and cities fared. Cypriot coastal cities, including Enkomi, Sinda and Kition, were destroyed, some by earthquakes and subsequently rebuilt. Though these towns never quite reached their old level this was still a prosperous period, and the 13th and 12th centuries BC were the high-point of copper production, clearing more of the remaining forests for fuel.  Several other ports were abandoned with no sign of destruction and this may reflect the huge dip in trade with the destroyed or reduced civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean and the subsequent failure of some interdependent mining and farming communities serving ports.  Despite the abandonment of many settlements others were created to suit the new realities, and a few such as Palaepaphos and Hala Sultan Teke not only continued but had a golden period (though the latter, like Enkomi, was later abandoned due to its harbour silting up). 

Waves of refugees, including craftsmen and potters came from Greece, and aspects of Mycenaean civilisation, which had disappeared in Greece, were developed in Cyprus.  Ethnic Greeks gained more influence and Mycenaean artistic and political styles were copied and blended with local traditions, which lead, in the Geometric period, to the  division of the country into Mycenaean style city kingdoms. 

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.  In ceramics, 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. 

With the crash in foreign trade and consequent shortage of tin to make bronze, combined with lack of wood for smelting, many copper mines closed.

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.  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 ended with the Aegean, almost ceased, and did not revive until well into the Geometric period largely through the contacts of the new Phoenician settlers.

Around 1050BC huge earthquakes destroyed or badly damaged most towns and settlements and many were never rebuilt.  All the major sites from the height of the Bronze Age had now been abandoned.