Early Iron Age: Cypro-Geometric Period: 1050 - 750 BC
Around 1050 BC huge earth-quakes destroyed most of the recently rebuilt towns and new ones were founded. Most had harbours. Of the old ones only Palaepaphos and Kition survived. Ruined Enkomi’s harbour had silted up so Salamis was founded on the new coast a few miles away. The 11th century was a dark period for Cyprus, with attacks on her coast and the collapse of foreign trade. The population decreased, perhaps partly due to a shortage of metal. (Bronze making required imported tin). Greece had already entered an illiterate dark age, but the Mediterranean-wide crisis that ended most bronze age states ironically affected Cyprus less because it was less centralised. From the copper sources in the foothills of the Troodos mountains, farming lands radiated in all directions to ports which became the centres for the formation of new city kingdoms in the Mycenaean manner. Although almost all trade had stopped, the regions could start to develop alternative trading partners, particularly to the West (Crete, Italy, Sardinia). There was a movement towards the coast.
Contact with the Levantine coast never completely stopped, and gradually trade resumed: these included ceramic exports to the East and luxury metalwork to Crete. Contact with the Aegean returned, and from the 9th century Phoenicians were bringing Cyprus into their wider networks.
Copper production picked up, along, slowly, with exports (though the standard large oxhide shaped ingots had disappeared). Elaborate bronze tripods and 4 sided stands were produced, along with bronze and Silver bowls. There were also large roasting spits in the Mycenaean warrior tradition. However, from the start of the 11th century BC the Cypriot coastal settlements had also became centres for the pioneering development of Iron technology. Knives with iron blades became an important export to Syria, the Levant, Anatolia and the Aegean. The earliest iron objects found in Greece originated in Cyprus.
The waves of Greek settlers in the 12th and 11th centuries BC had brought Greek culture and widespread use of the Greek language, but these people were not invaders or colonists. They inserted themselves into a living culture and an amalgam formed which was unified and distinct. The same thing happened later with the Phoenician settlers in Kition, though their kingdom paid tribute to the Phoenician kings ofTyre and their coins and inscriptions use the Phoenician language and alphabet.
Arcado-Cypriot Greek existed alongside the old Eteocypriot language of the Bronze Age, though both were written in the Cypriot syllabary, descended from Linear A. The Greek alphabet did not come into wide use till the Classical period.
Gradually through the Early Iron Age ethnic Greeks came to dominate Cyprus’s elite, and a very stratified society formed, with palaces and large houses, but the process is obscure. The new elites were warrior elites. Most of the new towns and settlements persisted for very long historic periods and were constantly rebuilt on the same sites. Consequently Archaeologists find few remains of buildings from the Geometric and Archaic periods.
Vast extramural cemeteries appeared which were used for centuries, including Mycenaean type chamber tombs with a long dromos, and a few warrior graves in monumental built tombs. However there were only a few cremations for exceptional individuals, perhaps with Aegean affiliations.
By 850BC, ambitious cut-stone temple buildings to the Phoenician goddess Astarte were being built at Kition (Larnaca) and Palace-like houses were being built, probably influenced by the Mycenaean Megaron, but even the finest dwellings were still plastered mud-brick on a stone base.
Now and especially in the Archaic period there was a multiplication of country shrines, particularly at the frontiers between the kingdoms, (where Kings and their families left life size votive sculptures.) where people from all around left votive figurines and other offerings.
Pottery was all wheel-made and consisted of White Painted and Bichrome wares, as well as a plain white ware, and a less common, ribbed, Black Slip Ware continued from the end of the Bronze Age. There were elements of a common ceramic style with the Levant, and the important Black on Red Ware, starting in the 9th century, was once though to come from there. However it is now recognised as a Cypriot product, widely exported to the Levant, Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, the Aegean and Crete, and much imitated. (This Geometric III period also brought three minor wares: Red Slip and Grey, and Black Polished.) The shapes and decorations were fairly standard and mass produced, ranging from huge amphorae to tiny perfume bottles. Levantine flasks and globular jug shapes were adopted, and influences from Greece are also discernible. Plates and large dishes were made for the first time. Figurines of a goddess with raised arms were copied from Crete.
Near the end of the Geometric period, in the first half of the 8th century BC, there was a sharp increase in numbers of settlements, ranging from large fortified urban centres down to numerous small rural ones, and many of the imported and home produced luxuries characteristic of the Archaic were already present.