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Klavdia-Tremithos in the Late Bronze Age

Klavdia-Tremithos appears to have been one of a number of small towns that flourished around Larnaka Bay during the Late Cypriot Bronze Age, c. 1650–1050 BC.[1] During this time several important maritime centres, such as Hala Sultan Tekke and Kition, developed on the coast nearby. These prosperous towns traded extensively with the surrounding eastern Mediterranean in raw materials (especially copper from the interior of the island) and luxury goods, but they also probably manufactured finished products such as metal objects, perfumes and unguents, dyes and textiles.

Map of the Larnaka Bay area of Cyprus


The community at Klavdia, already established during the later part of the Middle Bronze Age, played a significant part in this economic process. The site perhaps served as an intermediary settlement between the coast and the interior of the island via the Tremithos river valley. The resulting prosperity is reflected in many of the finds, such as imported Egyptian and Aegean pottery, glass and faience (also from Egypt), gold jewellery, cylinder seals and ivory goods.[2]  These include some of the earlier imports to the island, such as a Hyksos period scarab and several Tell Yahudiyeh ware juglets, both of which would have been regarded as considerable luxuries at the end of the Middle Bronze Age (MBA) and beginning of the Late Bronze Age (LBA). Examples of fine Pictorial Style pottery from the Aegean world dating to the 14th and 13th centuries, as well as contemporary luxury goods from Egypt, reflect the thriving commercial links of the nearby harbour towns of Hala Sultan Tekke and Kition, but also the ability of the Tremithos community to acquire them.

It should be noted, however, that the British Museum excavations at Klavdia were carried out before the development of modern archaeology, so most of the information on the original burials is now lost. As at all the sites explored by the British Museum on Cyprus during the 1890s, many objects were not kept because they were broken or uninteresting to the excavator, especially undecorated pottery which would have formed the major part of the original deposit. Details of the burial customs or anthropological remains were rarely if ever recorded. Also, many items from Klavdia were not assigned tomb numbers, so it is not possible to determine which were found together. The largest number of items from any one tomb amounts to no more than seven at Site A (in Tomb A5, though some may actually belong to Site B). This demonstrates the extreme selectivity of the excavators in what they kept, though it should be borne in mind that many of the tombs were already disturbed when explored by Welch in 1899, presumably by the people who supplied W.T. Ready with his collection, among others. It is necessary, therefore, to compare the surviving finds with reports of more recently excavated tombs in order to understand them in their original cultural and chronological context.

Cemetery and settlement remains, spanning most of the Bronze Age, have also been found over an extended area 3km down the valley near the large Ottoman country estate called Arpera chiftlik, from which several items in the British Museum collection may also derive (see below).[3]  This site further demonstrates the importance of the Tremithos valley during the LBA in particular; it seems to have been a major communication route to the eastern side of the Troodos mountain range and its important copper sources.

The presence of three Egyptian vessels (so-called el Lisht or Tell Yahudiyeh wares, nearly all small jugs for precious liquids such as unguents and perfumes), and two imported storage vessels (‘Canaanite jars’), dating to the transition from the MBA to LBA, around the 18th and 17th centuries BC, provides evidence for international contacts at a vital period in the history of the island.[4]  These objects, together with later imports from the Mycenaean and Levantine worlds, which arrived during the 14th and 13th centuries BC, place the site within a much larger economic network along with its contemporary coastal neighbours of Hala Sultan Tekke and Kition.

The British Museum team of 1899 also opened a number of tombs close to the mouth of the Pouzis river to the south-west, some of which contained rich grave goods including Mycenaean pottery and gold jewellery. There was also much locally made material, including what appeared to the excavator to be the remains of burials older than the likely 14th or 13th BC century date represented by the imported Late Helladic pottery. (See below for a description of the site recorded by the excavator at the time). Perhaps, like the Arpera chiftlik sites, this area was occupied throughout the Bronze Age as well, though very little is known about this site as few objects were preserved. Catling later observed Base Ring and LH III sherds, as well as fragments of large storage jars on the surface. The storage jars certainly indicate the existence of an associated settlement close to the cemetery area.[5]

The relationship between inland sites such as Klavdia-Tremithos and the urban settlements on the coast in the LBA is debated. It is commonly assumed that it was a secondary centre within the economic and political orbit of Hala Sultan Tekke or Kition, part of a chain of sites channelling resources such as copper (but also other raw materials) from the interior to the coastal emporia and into the wider economic networks of the eastern Mediterranean.[6]  The luxury goods found in the tombs of at least some of the occupants would, therefore, represent gifts or payments made to members of the community, or even locally based officials, by the authorities in return for services and loyalty to the centre.[7]

However, it has also been argued that the Tremithos valley sites, both Klavdia and around Arpera chliftlik, were not part of a hierarchically organised polity or state but operated independently of the major centres.[8]  In this case, the local élites may have been able to obtain the luxury goods found in their tombs through trade and other forms of commercial or political activity, based in particular on their access to the copper sources of the interior via the Tremithos valley.

This model suggests greater independence from the major coastal centres, or at least a much more equal relationship based on cooperation and negotiation. Equally, the distance between the settlement near the mouth of the Kivisili river and Hala Sultan Tekke may have permitted the community to operate separately from the latter town’s economic control, perhaps in a devolved manner suggested by Leonard for Klavdia-Tremithos. Further excavations, especially of the settlement areas, are needed to investigate this question further: it is important, therefore, not to exaggerate the importance of sites such as Tremithos from burial evidence alone, especially given the limited quality and quantity of the available data.[9]

Whatever the actual political structure in place in the valley and the wider Larnaka Bay area during the LBA, the whole system seems to have come to an end, or at least suffered a major crisis, around 1200 BC. Klavdia-Tremithos, and many other sites like it around Larnaka Bay, and indeed throughout Cyprus, appear to have been abandoned. The underlying causes are much debated and highly controversial, but it was probably a combination of economic, political and perhaps military events, which enveloped the whole of the eastern Mediterranean at this time.

The exact date of the abandonment of the site is actually uncertain: the Pastoral Style krater (wine mixing bowl) from Tomb 13 could date as late as the early 12th century, while other common Late Cypriot (LC) object types may also have survived into the LC III period. One likely result of the decline of Tremithos is the concentration of economic activity and population in the surviving centres. Nearby Hala Sultan Tekke continued to thrive for a time during the 12th century, but was also abandoned after several generations. The town of Kition, however, was occupied throughout the transition to the Iron Age and later developed into the core of a major kingdom in the first millennium BC.[10]

The Klavdia area in the Iron Age and Roman periods

Tombs discovered at a number of locations in and around Klavdia village dating from the Cypro-Archaic (CA) period onwards attest to the presence of a fairly long-lived community in this area during the first millennium BC.[11]  The associated settlement, which has not been explored, possibly formed part of the urban hinterland of Kition, along with other communities such as that at Aradhippou village to the north. A group of objects from a CA I tomb found at Aradhippou in the 19th century – known as the ‘Village Priest’s Tomb’ – is preserved in the British Museum collection. This tomb group, as well as finds from Kition and other nearby sites of Iron Age date, will be described in a forthcoming chapter of this Catalogue.[12]  Occupation around Klavdia evidently continued into the Roman period, as the modern name of the village preserves that of a colonia, or veterans’ settlement, named after the emperor Claudius (reigned 41–54 AD). This is confirmed by several Roman-period burials found in a tomb excavated in the village in 1998.[13]

  • ^ [1] - Leonard 2000, 117–18.
  • ^ [2] - Malmgren 2003 for a survey; also Merrillees 1974.
  • ^ [3] - Merrillees 1974, 43 (with previous references); Leonard 2000; Malmgren 2003, 10.
  • ^ [4] - Merrillees 1974, 75–6.
  • ^ [5] - Catling 1962, 164, LC sites 120–1.
  • ^ [6] - Catling 1963; Keswani 2003.
  • ^ [7] - Keswani 1993.
  • ^ [8] - Leonard 2000, 131–7.
  • ^ [9] - Iacovou 2005.
  • ^ [10] - Yon 2006.
  • ^ [11] - Malmgren 2003, 10 with references.
  • ^ [12] - Bailey 1969.
  • ^ [13] - Malmgren 2003, 10.

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