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Book: Critical Approaches to Cypriot and Wider Mediterranean Archaeology

Chapter: 2. Cyprus’ External Connections in the Prehistoric Bronze Age

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.42478


The current view of Middle Bronze Age (MBA) Cyprus as isolated from the wider eastern Mediterranean and comprised largely of agropastoral villages is under challenge. New excavations and new readings of legacy data suggest that communities are likely to have been significantly more internally complex and interconnected with some participation also in external networks. This chapter builds on earlier research in which I argue that a still unlocated coastal settlement at Lapithos was exporting Cypriot copper and receiving copper and copper-base artefacts in the first half of the second millennium BCE. I respond, specifically, to several questions regarding the off-island trade links of Lapithos and the timing and nature of metal assemblages and imports in MBA tombs at the site.
There are significant problems of visibility, but it is clear that Cyprus was a source of copper for the Levant and the Aegean prior to 1700 BCE. With the Anatolian coastline likely offering few suitable anchorages, Lapithos may have taken advantage of its location to supply passing ships with food, water and copper, in return receiving imported goods including tin or/and tin bronze. Imports, many of which are items of personal adornment, appear from the first phase of the MBA. The quantity of metal, including tin bronze, increased markedly in tomb deposits during the MBA but both metal and imports are unevenly distributed in the mortuary landscape. This suggests the presence at Lapithos of individuals and groups whose wealth and status were based on differential access to metal and imported goods acquired through management of the internal relationships that enabled north coast communities to acquire copper from ore bodies in the Troodos and participation in external trade networks.

Chapter Contributors

  • Jennifer Webb ( - jenniferwebb) 'LaTrobe University'