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Chronological chart for Ancient Cyprus

The following chart provides an outline of the chronology of ancient Cyprus from the beginning of the first traces of human occupation around 12,000 years ago down to the early Byzantine period, c. 700 AD.

The chronological system presented below has been developed by scholars over many decades, but is based in particular on the discoveries made by members of the Swedish Cyprus Expedition between 1927 and 1931 (Bronze and Iron Ages and Hellenistic to Roman periods) and by Porphyrios Dikaios and James Stewart between the 1930s and 1950s (Neolithic, Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age). The results were brought together in a series of analytic volumes published by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition between 1948 and 1972.[1]

Archaeological discoveries and research since this time, including greater synchronisation of Cypriot cultural phases with those of surrounding regions, but also the increased availability of Carbon-14 (C-14) dates, has altered many details of this basic scheme.[2]  Furthermore, evidence for the very early history of Cyprus has expanded in a way almost unimaginable to previous generations of archaeologists working on Cyprus and new discoveries continue to alter the chronological and cultural framework within which scholars reconstruct the island’s past.[3]

It should be stressed that the chronological boundaries between key periods given here, particularly the successive phases of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods and the Philia and Bronze Age are approximate. They are based in part on highly regionalised cultural sequences, many without firm C-14 dates, but even synchronisations with historical events and horizons can be misleading if understood literally or uncritically. Older terms for various phases of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods of the island (such as Khirokitia, Sotira and Erimi etc) have relatively limited application nowadays, as the histories of these sites often represent only one phase of the broader cultural period. They are include below however to help readers familiar with the older terms.

Given the rapid developments in the archaeology of the island in recent years, it is likely that these dates and associated periodisations will be subject to change in the near future in line with new discoveries and refinements of existing date. This includes the likelihood of greater clarity about the nature and chronology extent of the Cypro-Pre-Pottery Neolithic (especially the existence of its earliest phase)[4]  and the nature and date of hunter-forager sites such as Akrotiri-Aetokremnos, Nissi Beach and Akamas-Asprosl.[5]

Detailed subdivisions of periods for the Bronze and Iron Ages are mostly based on the seriation (statistical analysis) of pottery types from tombs with very limited numbers of absolute dates. The latter are based on synchronisations with more closely datable objects/levels in neighbouring areas of the Eastern Mediterranean as well as a much small sample of narrow C14 dates. These should not be regarded as hard historical divisions but instead mark general cultural transitions within broader social and historical frameworks.

Dissatisfaction with aspects of the chronological system proposed by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition since it was first introduced has led to various modifications of the system over the years.[6]  Some of these changes have been incorporated without dispute, while others remain the subject of debate. The most recent major re-evaluation of the early Iron Age was published in 2009 by Smith based on the stratigraphy of Kition.[7]

In addition, it should be noted that the conventional dates for the transition from Cypro-Archaic to Cypro-Classical (c. 475 bc ), Cypro-Classical to Hellenistic (traditionally 312 bc) or Hellenistic to Roman (58 or 30 bc)  have often been fixed with reference to specific historical events.[8]  However, the degree to which these events had an immediate or even direct effect on the material culture of Cyprus is debatable. Consequently, more general dates are preferred, especially when discussing the development of object types which are known to have been in use for long periods. The reader is referred to individual chapters for further comments on the problems of dating specific sites or object types given the limited contextual evidence recorded by 19th-century excavators.      

All dates given below are approximate and are bc unless otherwise stated. The dates for the earliest human activity on Cyprus are derived from uncalibrated C-14 data and are conventionally given as BP (Before Present) rather than bc. To avoid confusion for the non-specialist, straightforward calendrical dates are provided here, especially as it is highly likely that future developments will alter this information. For a general outline of dating methods, see C. Renfrew and P. Bahn 2008, Archaeology: Theories, methods and practice (5th ed.), London.


Cultural Phase  Approximate date   Revised systems
(esp. Knapp 2004;
Smith 2009)
Akrotiri phase 10th millennium  
Early/Middle Aceramic Neolithic 9000–7000  
Cypro-Pre-Pottery 
Neolithic A (?) 
Earlier 9th millennium (?)
Cypro-Pre-Pottery 
Neolithic B
8500/8200–7000    
Later Aceramic Neolithic 
(inc. Khirokitia culture)
7000/6500–5800/5500  

Ceramic Neolithic
(inc. Sotira culture)

 

5500–4000  
Chalcolithic 
(inc. Erimi culture)
   
Early  4000/3800–3500  
Middle  3500–2800  
Late 2800–2500/2300  
Philia
Early Cypriot
2500–2300 Prehistoric Bronze Age
PreBA I
ECI 2400–2150 PreBA II
ECII 2150–2100 PreBA II
ECIII 2100–2000/1950 PreBA II
Middle Cypriot    
MCI 2000/1950–1850 PreBA III
MCII 1850–1750 PreBA III
MCIII 1750–1650 Protohistoric Bronze Age I 
Late Cypriot    
LCIA 1650–1550 ProBA I
LCIB 1550–1450 ProBA I
LCIIA 1450–1375 ProBA II
LCIIB 1375–1300 ProBA II
LCIIC 1340/1315–1200 ProBA II
LCIIIA 1200–1100 ProBA III
LCIIIB 1100–1050 ProBA III
Cypro-Geometric    
CGIA 1050–1000 ProBA III (–1000 BC)
CGIB 1050–950  
CGII 950–900 (CG I­–II) 1050–925/900
CGIII 900–750 925/900–800
Cypro-Archaic    
CAI 750–600 800–700/650
CAII 600–475 700/650­–475
Cypro-Classical 450–300  
Cypro-Classical I 475–400  
Cypro-Classical II 400–300  
Hellenistic 300–50  
Roman  50–400 AD  
Late Roman/Early Byzantine 400AD –700AD  

  • ^ [1] - SCE IV/1A–D, 2 and 3.
  • ^ [2] - Merrillees 1992; Knapp et al. 1994; Manning et al. 2001; McCartney 2006.
  • ^ [3] - See papers in Swiny 2001; Peltenburg and Wasse 2004; McCartney 2006, 39–41.
  • ^ [4] - McCartney 2006, with subsequent reports in RDAC on more recent seasons.
  • ^ [5] - Simmons 2001; Ammerman et al. 2006.
  • ^ [6] - Merrillees 1992; see Knapp et al. 1994; Knapp 2004 for more radical redating and relabeling of the prehistoric phases; Reyes 1994, 5–7, Coldstream 1999; Schreiber 2003; Smith 2009 for the Iron Age.
  • ^ [7] - Reyes 1994, 5–7; 2009, xviii table 3
  • ^ [8] - Tatton-Brown 1990a; 1990b, 1990c for traditional surveys; also Reyes 1994.