Ancient Cyprus in the British Museum

Edited by Thomas Kiely

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Post-Bronze Age occupation at the site

L. Crewe and T. Kiely

There are 22 objects in this catalogue that post-date the abandonment of the town of Enkomi. The Late Bronze Age (LBA) settlement was abandoned in the course of the twelfth century with the population moving to the coastal site of Salamis several miles to the east. However, religious activity appears to have continued in a number of locations at Enkomi (such as the Sanctuary of the Ingot God) during the succeeding LCIIIB period, finally ceasing by around 1050 BC. However, the site of the LBA town was not completely forgotten by the inhabitants of the surrounding area. Terracotta and stone figurines, mostly depicting woman in a variety of poses suggesting a votive function, were found by Dikaios on or close to the surface near the fortifications in the northern part of the town. They date from the late Cypro-Geometric and Cypro-Archaic periods (around 900 BC-450 BC). Similar objects were found by the Turner Bequest excavations in or near tombs in the south-eastern part of the town.

Dikaios interpreted these figurines as proof of actual settlement occupation in this period, especially as he also recorded a cemetery of CG III date at the site of Kaminia 900 metres to the north (Dikaios 1971: 536). However, there is no archaeological evidence from any of the excavations at Enkomi that the town was used for regular settlement activity after the end of the Bronze Age in the eleventh century BC.

These votive offerings are more likely to belong to a small rural shrine dedicated to a female divinity (Hadjicosti 1989). This is a type of sanctuary common throughout the island at this time, but especially around the edge of the Eastern Lowlands where Enkomi is located, where they often functioned as a focus for the dispersed rural population or perhaps acted as way-stations for travellers. The findspot of the figurines from the Turner Bequest excavations in the southern part of the settlement suggests that there was more than one sanctuary in the ruins of the old town, though these are later in date that those in the northern sector identified by Dikaios and resemble examples found at Salamis.

The local population may have retained a memory of the older settlement and returned there regularly to leave offerings, as they continued to do for several generations after the move to Salamis during the eleventh century. But, since there is a gap in time of several centuries between the latest material from the old settlement and the rural shrine, the worshippers may instead have ‘rediscovered’ the impressive ruins in the nineth and eighth centuries BC and marked their admiration and awe by establishing small sanctuaries here or by placing objects in older tombs.

This phenomenon is attested elsewhere on Cyprus in this period, and in the contemporary Greek world, where shrines were also established in abandoned Bronze Age tombs and settlements. This may also be connected with the development of the territory of the historical kingdom of Salamis, where sanctuaries served as important centres for local elites to display their piety, wealth and power. Some of the stone and terracotta sculpture from Enkomi discovered by the British Museum can be compared with examples from much larger and richer sanctuaries of Salamis and other Cypro-Archaic kingdoms, including material from the Cyprus Exploration Fund excavations at Salamis now preserved in the British Museum collections.

Objects in this catalogue dating to the Post-Bronze Age occupation of the site of Enkomi are numbered PBA.1 to PBA.22.