The Larnaka Bay area of south-eastern Cyprus was once described as the ‘fertile crescent’ of the island during the Late Bronze Age. The phrase, evoking the great heartland of urban civilisations of the ancient Near East, was inspired by the abundant archaeological evidence for dense settlement, intensive trading activities and cosmopolitan populations in the later second millennium BC. This chapter of the Ancient Cyprus in the British Museum Online Research Catalogue features over one hundred items reflecting the life, beliefs and funeral practices of a community, known as Klavdia-Tremithos, which flourished in this area during the later Middle and Late Cypriot Bronze Ages (around 1750–1100 BC).
The site of Klavdia-Tremithos is located in the Tremithos river valley, some 3.5km south-east of Klavdia village and just under twice that distance from the city of Larnaka to the east. Excavations conducted by F.B. Welch for the British Museum in 1899 revealed over 30 tombs with numerous rich finds such as imported pottery, faience, ivory and glass and engraved cylinder seals. These items, many originating in Egypt, the Levant or the Aegean word, range in date from the later part of the Middle Bronze Age to the end of the Late Bronze Age (c. 18th to 12th centuries BC).
The finds were divided between the British Museum and the Cyprus Museum according to the antiquities legislation of the time. Together with other items from the site acquired from the antiquity collector W.T. Ready the previous year, these objects reflect many aspects of the economic and social life of this community during a dynamic period in the history of the region and the island.
Most of the objects in the British Museum collection from Klavdia-Tremithos were probably found in tombs, placed with the deceased as part of the funeral ritual. They were perhaps intended for use in the afterlife or simply as an expression of the person’s wealth, social position or profession. Remains of the associated settlement were not recorded by the British Museum expedition, but several of the finds – such as the mould for making bronze tools illustrated here – suggest the existence nearby of metal workshops. This was confirmed in 1952 when Hector Catling observed traces of buildings, together with fragments of storage jars and stone querns of Late Bronze Age date, on the surface at Klavdia-Tremithos. It is likely, therefore, that the tombs formed part of the settled area, or lay close by, rather than occupying a separate burial ground. This custom is typical of the Late Bronze Age on Cyprus and is also found at Enkomi, Kourion-Bamboula, Maroni, Hala Sultan Tekke and Palaepaphos, as well as at sites not represented in this catalogue such as Kalavasos-Ayios Dhimitrios.
In addition to the finds from Klavdia-Tremithos, this chapter also includes a small number of other items found at two sites in the surrounding area: a Late Bronze Age cemetery near the mouth of the Pouzis river to the south-west of Klavdia explored by the British Museum in 1899, and an extensive Bronze Age cemetery and settlement further down the Tremithos valley, known to scholars as Arpera chiftlik. All three sites attest to the central importance of this region of Cyprus as an economic and cultural powerhouse throughout the second millennium BC.