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Hala Sultan Tekke in the Late Bronze Age continued

From the 13th century onwards, Hala Sultan Tekke underwent major changes in layout and appearance, probably connected with intensification of industrial and commercial activities. Large, carefully planned buildings constructed of finely cut stone (‘ashlar’) appeared in a number of areas of the site. In Area 8–22, a plan of which is included here, a series of houses arranged around a central courtyard flanked a street some 4m wide. The street appeared to continue on the same alignment further to the south, suggesting some degree of spatial organisation or ‘town planning’ within the settlement. Several of the houses included sophisticated features such as carefully paved rooms with their own wells, which have been interpreted as ‘bathrooms’.

Signs of small-scale industrial activity are also present, such as the evidence for dyeing in Building A in the form of crushed murex shells (from which costly purple dye was extracted) and quantities of red ochre. A number of small shrines have also been identified in the later levels of the settlement.

Plan of part of the settlement of Hala Sultan Tekke (Areas 8 and 22) showing houses and workshops arranged around courtyards flanking a wide street. The ‘bathroom’ mentioned in the text is at the top of the photograph, in House A. (Åström 1986, fig. 1; © P. Åströms förlag)


In another part of the site, Area 6 on the likely north-west edge of the settlement, a large building with massive walls some 1.3–1.5m thick was partially excavated dating to the LC IIC/IIIA horizon. The large quantities of fine-wares in the floor deposits of the building suggested a high status administrative building or élite residence.[14]

View of Area 8–22, facing the Salt Lake and the Mosque of Hala Sultan Tekke (among the trees in the far distance)


The excavator Paul Åström dated this phase of urban activity at Hala Sultan Tekke to the early 12th century, following a violent destruction of the site at the beginning of LC IIIA, which he attributed to the Sea Peoples. This process may, however, have begun earlier, in the LC IIC period: the settlement certainly shows strong signs of continuity, both of layout and architectural techniques, with surviving 13th-century remains at the site, as well as with contemporary Cypriot settlements.[15]Ongoing study of existing evidence, together with new fieldwork at the site, will no doubt help to clarify these issues.

The town was obviously prosperous in this period, and this is usually thought to be connected with the organisation of the copper mining industry, among other factors. However, the settlement has produced no evidence of the monumental storage and administration complexes (commonly known as ‘Ashlar Buildings’) found at contemporary LC sites such as Alassa, Maroni-Vournes or Kalavasos-Ayios Dhimitrios mentioned elsewhere in this catalogue. Nor have any monumental temples or other large-scale structures (such as residences of important individuals) been found at nearby Kition or in Enkomi and Palaepaphos.[16]

Also striking is the lack of any traces of a defensive town wall, such as those found at a number of contemporary centres (including nearby Kition, but also Kourion-Bamboula and Enkomi). These may yet be discovered, but their absence may also signal differences in the function, economic or social structure or even political importance of the town.

Hala Sultan Tekke is commonly regarded as one of the major LC urban centres of the island because of its appearance at the transition to the LBA, but during the 13th century a number of towns appeared in the Larnaka Bay area that were clearly sophisticated and urban in nature. Both the walled settlement of Kition, underneath modern Larnaka, and the dramatic promontory site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos further east along Larnaka Bay (within the bounds of the British Sovereign Area Base), developed into thriving urban centres at this time and may have been commercial and political rivals of their older neighbour.[17]

As hinted above, Hala Sultan Tekke itself appears to have experienced economic and political troubles towards the end of the 13th century, as did contemporary centres on the island and indeed throughout the eastern Mediterranean.[18] Some chamber tombs went out of use, though this may be connected with changes in burial customs. The excavator Paul Åström identified a major destruction level in the settlement around this time, which he attributed to a violent attack by a hostile group. The area also seems to have suffered major seismic activity around the same time, which may also have been responsible for some of the visible destructions.

Nonetheless, as already noted, some of the fine buildings mentioned above may have been constructed as late as c. 1200 bc, and parts of the site continued to show signs of prosperity into the 12th century. Furthermore, one tomb (no. 23 of the Swedish excavations) dating to around 1175 bc contained the remains of a single individual who was laid to rest with an extraordinary range of contemporary luxury goods, including a bronze trident, a set of bronze drinking vessels, gold jewellery and an ivory gaming box. These grave gifts denoted his wealth and social status but also his connections with the outside world, especially the Levant.[19]

Plan of Tomb 23 of the Swedish excavations at Hala Sultan Tekke, a single burial of the early 12th century bc. (Åström et al. 1983, fig. 419, © P. Åströms förlag)


The town was abandoned some time later than this burial, perhaps because of the silting up of the lagoon on which the prosperity of the settlement was based. On the other hand, the declining functionality of the harbour may actually reflect the shift in economic power away from Hala Sultan Tekke to other centres, resulting in the neglect of the necessary maintenance required to keep the lagoon open to sea-going vessels. Significantly, perhaps, urban life and foreign contacts continued to thrive at the nearby maritime settlement of Kition, which was occupied continuously down into the first millennium bc, first as a major city-kingdom – one of the most powerful on the island until the time of Alexander the Great – and later as a thriving Hellenistic and Roman port.[20] Sporadic remains of later periods have been found at the older site of Hala Sultan Tekke, but the area never again regained the importance it enjoyed during the second millennium bc.

  • ^ [14] - Åström et al. 1983 passim.
  • ^ [15] - Negbi 1986, 106–7; Hult 1983, 9.
  • ^ [16] - Hadjisavvas 2000; Hult 1983.
  • ^ [17] - Karageorghis 1976; Yon 2006; Karageorghis and Demas 1984.
  • ^ [18] - See papers in Ward and Joukowsky 1992 and Oren 2000 for a summary of effects and possible causes.
  • ^ [19] - Niklassen in Åström 1983, 169–213; Åström 1986, 15–16.
  • ^ [20] - Karageorghis 1976; 1985; Calvet 1993; Yon 2006; Smith 2009.
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