Middle Cypriote Period (1900-1600 BC)


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Red Polished IV ware

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Period Overview: The Middle Cypriote period is often difficult to distinguish from the Early Cypriote period and the two periods typically get lumped together. This is the result of a dearth of settlement evidence from both periods and the existence of chamber tombs being continually used in both periods. Most studies on the Middle Cypriote period deal with the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age (MC III - LC I). Red Polished ware, common in the Early Cypriote period, continues to be produced in the Middle Bronze Age, however the traditional marker of the MC period is White Painted Ware. Bowls and small juglets with painted decoration typify the corpus of this ware. As evident by the end of the Early Cypriote period, the population size on the island continues to increase in the Middle Cypriote period. Important MC sites are located at Alambra, Kalopsidha, Episkopi-Phaneromeni, Pyrgos, Marki-Alonia, Lapithos and Ambelikou. Limited MC settlement evidence comes from Alambra, Kalopsidha and Marki-Alonia. Pyrgos has yielded evidence of a perfume production center. The importance of Vounous in the north declines in the Middle Cypriote period and Lapithos has a vibrant MC phase. Located in the eastern part of the island, Kalopsidha yielded a complex domestic structure with several rooms around a central open area. Rectangular rooms defined the domestic architecture found at Alambra. The simplistic architecture of the period contrasts the variation in burial goods deposited in MC chamber tombs. The MC period lacks a true urban center and some scholars, such as Stewart Swiny, suggest that the MC society was unstratified. This would mean that Cyprus lacked any type of a chiefdom stage before the great urban expansion and development that characterizes the Late Cypriote period. Furthermore, the domestic architecture at Marki-Alonia from the MC I period (2000-1800) indicates an egalitarian society, however this does not account for the mortuary evidence of the period. Knapp and Keswani both envision social hierarchy and the rise of local elites in the MC period. This social inequality is evident in the inequality of rich copper weapons and artifacts in tombs.

Evidence for increased copper exploitation and production appears in the MC period. Copper production at this time is apparent at Ambelikou (crucibles, stone and terracotta axe moulds), Alambra (moulds, crucibles, slag) and Pyrgos. It is uncertain whether this copper exploitation was primarily for internal interests or the result of foreign desires. References to Alashiya and the land's copper appear as early as the 18th-17th centuries in texts found at Mari, Babylon and Alalakh. External contact no doubt occurred in the period but it is impossible to judge the full extent of the exchange network. Chamber tombs at Vounous and Lapithos yielded a few Middle Minoan ceramics (MM II Kamares Ware) and metal weapons. Likewise, Middle Cypriote ceramics are found on a limited basis at Knossos as well as Ras Shamra and Megiddo. Over 500 Middle Cypriote ceramics were discovered at Tell el-Dab'a in Egypt; this group is the largest group of exported Cypriote pottery in the MBA. The MC III period is seen as the transition period into the Late Bronze Age. Many of the major urban settlements of the Late Bronze period are established during the MC I-LC III transition such as: Enkomi, Toumba Tou Skourou, Hala Sultan Tekke and Kourion. Another characteristic of this transition phase is the existence of numerous "forts" along the northern and eastern parts of the island. There are 21 forts in the Karpass peninsula, along the southern ridge of the Kyrenia range and on the norhtern foothills of the Troodos during the MC III/ LC I. These forts are typically interpreted as a control system over the copper resources. It is often argued that Enkomi is the only site at this period that could have established such a system; the amount of metallurgical activity at Enkomi at this time suggests that the system helped protect the sources from anyone coming from the north or the west. However, the true function of these structures and their relationship to the development of Late Cypriote society is not fully understood.

Map of Cyprus showing sites from various periods. MC sites Ambelikou, Alambra, Lapithos and Episkopi 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.