Introduction to Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satellite Image of Cyprus and the Northeastern Mediterranean with Turkey, Syria and Lebanon in view. (1)

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea with 9,251 square kilometers or 3,572 square miles (Sicily and Sardinia are larger than Cyprus). Throughout its history Cyprus has played a strategic role in the Eastern Meditteranean and is commonly thought of as a cultural crossroads regardless of the time period. The geographical location of the island in the northeast corner of the Mediterranean basin (60 miles west of Syria, 47 miles south of Turkey and 200 miles north of Egypt (2) ) no doubt has been a blessing and a curse. In the Late Bronze Age (1600-1050 BC), Cyrpus participated in an extensive trade network throughout the Meditteranean. Late Cypriote period goods have been found from Syro-Palestine to Sardinia and from Egypt to Bulgaria. Natural copper resources on the island played an important role in the development of the Cypriote economy as well as outside contact and interest in the island as early as the Chalcolithic and Early Cypriote periods. At the peak of the copper industry in the Late Bronze Age, copper in the form of oxhide ingots fueled international trade as is evident with the famous Uluburun and Cape Gelidonya Bronze Age shipwrecks and the Amarna tablets. However, Cyprus has also been subjected to numerous foreign powers throughout its history. Phoenician, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Frankish, Venitian, Ottoman, British and Turkish peoples have made their presence felt on the island. Even in the 21st century, the geographical importance of Cyprus cannot be underestimated, as was unfortunately demonstrated when thousands of people were evacuated from Lebanon to Cyprus during the July 2006 Israeli-Lebanon conflict. Even though the Republic of Cyprus was created over 45 years ago, the British still maintain three strategic military bases on the island. The island has an unique archaeological and political history, however this website will focus on the earliest prehistory through the late Archaic period while briefly touching upon the Classical and Roman era.

There are two major mountain ranges on Cyprus. The Troodos massif is located on the southcentral part of the island. The Kyrenia mountains run along the northern coast. Both mountains ranges are visible in the satellite image below. The copper resources were located within the Troodos mountains including the Troodos foothills.

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Satellite Image of Cyprus. Notice the Troodos and Kyrenia mountain ranges.

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Chronological Overview

Akrotiri Phase - 9,500 - 9,000 BC

Early Aceramic Neolithic (PPNB)- 8200 - late 8th century BC

Late Aceramic Neolithic 7000-5000 BC

Ceramic Neolithic - 4500-4000 BC

Chalcolithic period - 4000 - 2500 BC

Philia Phase - 2500-2350 BC

Early Cypriote - 2350 - 1900 BC

Middle Cypriote - 1900 - 1600 BC

Late Cypriote - 1600 - 1050 BC

Cypro-Geometric - 1050-750 BC

Cypro-Archaic - 750 - 480 BC

Cypro-Classical - 480 - 310 BC

Hellenistic Period - 310 - 30 BC

Roman Period - 30 BC - AD 300

Greek Byzantine Empire-AD 395- 12th c

Franco-Venitian rule - 1191 -1570

Ottoman Rule - 1571 - 1878

British colonial rule - 1878 - 1960

Republic of Cyprus formed - 1960

Conflict and eventual Turkish invasion of northern third of the island - 1974

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Troodos mountains from Vouni; click for larger picture

 

 

 

Map of Mediterranean Sea showing Greece, Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean (3)

Map of Cyprus showing major archaeological sites. (4)

Satellite Image of Cyprus. Notice the Troodos and Kyrenia mountain ranges. (5)

View of Troodos mountains from the Classical site of Vouni in northwestern Cyprus. Photo taken by author.

Footnotes

1. Image taken from www.googleearth.com. <Accessed on 7/2006>

2. Information taken from Cyprus Tourist website. <Accessed on 7/20/2006>

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Image taken from www.googleearth.com. <Accessed on 7/2006>