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Ancient Cyprus in the British Museum

Edited by Thomas Kiely

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Guide to the collection

The All objects link in the left hand menu returns the entire catalogue in order of Tombs 1-100, followed by objects from the Foundry hoard, Post-Bronze Age occupation of the site, surface finds, and finds from unknown locations.

The majority of the material in the collection was excavated in 1896, with some additional objects purchased in 1898-1900. Although a proportion of the material was published in the volume Excavations in Cyprus (1900), and certain classes of objects have been included in the catalogues of the Department of Greece and Rome at the British Museum or studied by later researchers (see bibliography), some of the material remained unregistered, awaiting conservation or study. All the material held in the stores is now presented in a searchable format, with photographs, dimensions and descriptions.

The British Museum’s excavation was conducted prior to the development of modern methodologies and excavation techniques. Little attention was paid to the deposition of the finds or to the human remains associated with the objects and the aim of the expedition was to collect a ‘representative sample’ of objects from the tombs, and particularly objects that were worthy of display (see Steel 2001). Value judgements were often placed upon the importance of different objects according to their aesthetic qualities, rather than their archaeological value. Local ceramics, particularly undecorated vessels, were considered to be ‘primitive’ or ‘coarse’ and not accorded the same care as the highly decorated finds or objects made from valuable raw materials. Therefore, it must be stressed that the objects collected do not represent the complete contents of the tombs, except in rare cases which are noted in the discussion of each tomb. Accounts of fully excavated tombs from Enkomi can be found in Gjerstad et al. 1934, Dikaios 1969-1971, Courtois 1981 and Lagarce 1985.

In addition, many of the tombs had already been disturbed and looted but the 1896 notebooks rarely state which ones (Tatton-Brown 2003). Despite this, some of the tombs excavated in 1896 remain the most intriguing and the wealthiest known from the site. Tomb 93 is exceptional in the amount of gold and unusual imported valuables, Tombs 19 and 66 are also particularly wealthy. The Foundry Hoard is also an extremely important assemblage, affording a rare glimpse into the importance of bronze artefacts and their use and recycling.