Period Overview: The early years of the Chalcolithic period are difficult to fully assess since building strategies often used perishable materials. The first few hundred years of the 4th millennium are recognized as the Early Chalcolithic period, however the highpoint of the period is really during the Middle Chalcolithic era or about 3500-2500 BC. The Late Chalcolithic period in the middle of the 3rd millennium is a transitional phase into the Early Bronze Age. In some parts of the island, the Late Chalcolithic period overlaps the Philia phase. The site type of the Chalcolithic period is Erimi, located on the south central part of the island (View sherds from Erimi). Other important Chalcolithic sites are attested at Kissonerga-Mosphilia, Lemba, Souskiou, Kalavasos-Ayios and Yialia (View map of Cyprus). Chalcolithic settlements are non-existent in the northern, northeastern and eastern parts of the island.
Architecturally, the Chalcolithic period reverts back to the circular housing, well known from the Aceramic Neolithic period, although a central hearth often appears now. A soft, green stone called picrolite becomes very popular in the Chalcolithic period. Found in riverbeds, such as the Kouris river, picrolite was sculpted into various luxury ornaments, such a cruciform figurines or dentalium bead necklaces (see above picture). The exact meaning of the figurines is open for question, but they are often thought of as birthing figurines associated with fertility. Picrolite figurines were even found associated with a large stone phallus in a grave at Souskiou. These picrolite figurines are evidence of luxuries and are deposited in burials, however the grave goods are distributed in an unequal fashion suggesting the beginning of social stratification. Mortuary practices in the Chalcolithic period again divert from the practices of the Ceramic Neolithic. Chalcolithic graves are located beside the exterior house walls and employ both single and group burials. The Chalcolithic period has demonstrated the earliest evidence of interest in copper on the island. Two copper objects, a chisel tip and a hook, were found at Erimi and by the Late Chalcolithic period there is substantial evidence for external contact with Anatolia. Chalcolithic Cyprus shares ceramic characteristics with Tarsus and other goods on Cyprus seem to have been imported. The Late Chalcolithic period, where Cyprus has made foreign contacts, may be seen as the genesis of a large maritime network that would develop in the Bronze Age and reach its peak in the Late Bronze Age. Overall, increased settlements and population characterize the period as well as some exploitation of island resources. The Chalcolithic period only scratched the surface of the mineral resources on the island and these sources would become fully exploited in later periods.
Map of Cyprus with sites from all periods. Some Chalcolithic sites are shown. Map taken from Karageorghis, V. 2000. Ancient Art from Cyprus. The Cesnola Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, pg xiv.
16 sherds from Erimi in the Bryn Mawr Collections
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