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The Iron Age

Cypro-Geometric period (c. 1050–750 BC)

As noted above, by the beginning of the 11th century BC, the settlement of Bamboula had been abandoned and there is no evidence of where the population of the lower river valley lived for the next five centuries, until the first traces of occupation on the acropolis of Kourion become visible in the 5th or 4th century BC. However, some tombs appear by the later 11th century BC at the site of Kaloriziki below the acropolis of Kourion, suggesting that the economic and political centre of gravity in the region had shifted away from Bamboula towards the centre of the later city-kingdom. Bamboula too was also used for burial on a sporadic basis during this time.[43]  Early Iron Age activity has recently been reported around the site of Erimi-Pitharka, but only preliminary reports have yet been published.[44]  As noted above, this major drop in archaeological visibility of the human population has been interpreted as a sign of a major drop in the fortunes of the Kourion area, including the suggestion that the area was abandoned for a time.[45]

However, the affluence of the earliest grave burials in the new Kaloriziki cemetery during the late 11th and earlier 10th centuries is striking, and argues against this stark picture of political, economic and even demographic collapse. At a minimum, these burials suggest that the area recovered rapidly from the economic and political crises of the LC III period and that at least some groups had the confidence to begin putting large amounts of costly items into their graves, though the shift in location of burial may indicate the reorganisation of social institutions or a shift in power away from older ruling groups.

A perhaps more optimistic view is that older assessments overestimated the effect (and indeed nature) of these crises and that Cypriot society evolved in a more organised and structured manner into the new millennium, despite the very low levels of positive evidence for human activity. Many scholars place the origins of the historic kingdom of Kourion in this period, although it is not mentioned in historical texts until 672 BC. The first settlement of Greek-speakers in the area is commonly attributed to this horizon, based on changes in the archaeological record, though this is impossible to confirm without epigraphic evidence, which does not appear much before the Cypro-Archaic (CA) period[46].  The process may well have been a prolonged process and almost certainly involved the gradual integration of new settlers with the existing population.

Tomb 40, dating to the later 11th century (LC IIIB) had been looted before it could be excavated, but contained a wealth of bronze objects, including an urn which held the cremated remains of a middle-aged woman buried with military equipment.[47]  A number of items confiscated from tomb looters in 1903, including the famous ‘Kourion sceptre’ – a gold and enamelled tube topped with the figure of an eagle – and the handles and rim of an antique bronze urn, have also been associated with this tomb, though this has been disputed.[48]  The tomb, which seems to have contained an additional male burial, has commonly been interpreted as that of a prince or king (and queen) of the early kingdom of Kourion.

Several slightly later tombs, also with rich burials, appear to cluster around Tomb 40 in the same area of the cemetery (see the plan of the cemetery in the Guide to the Collection below), suggesting that this burial ground may have developed around the tomb of a remarkable individual or group associated with the political changes in the region in this period.[49]  He (or she) was perhaps an early chief or ruler of the area, though as noted above it is a matter of debate whether the origins of the historical kingdom of Kourion can be placed this early.[50]

The location of the contemporary settlement remains unknown, as there are few traces of activity on the acropolis before the later Cypro-Classical (CC) period in the 5th century BC. Bamboula itself continued to be used sporadically for burial activity in the CG and CA periods, as demonstrated by tombs discovered by both the British Museum and University of Pennsylvania excavations.[51]  Early Phoenician imports found in tombs at Episkopi-Kaloriziki and around Episkopi village also suggest that the area was in contact with the Levantine world from the 10th or 9th centuries BC[52], if only indirectly through the settlement of Amathus near Limassol. The community at Amathus appears to have been prosperous and outward looking, with extensive overseas connections across the Mediterranean from an early stage of the CG period.

Burial customs

One of the major changes in Cypriot culture during the 11th century was how and where the dead were buried. The earliest tomb found at Kaloriziki – Tomb 40 mentioned above – represents the continued use of the simpler shaft-grave type found in LC IIC and LC IIIA such as at Enkomi and Hala Sultan Tekke, albeit with a very lavish burial deposit.

More elaborate forms of funerary architecture appear a little later in adjacent plots of the same burial ground.[53]  Tombs 19, 25 and 26 and 41 boast much larger burial chambers approached by sloping or stepped dromoi, up to 22m long in the case of Tomb 41. Instead of the older practice of successive burials over long periods, the chambers appear to have been used for only a handful of burials. Steel has characterised these as ‘family-sized’ groups, perhaps signalling a shift in social structure with an emphasis on key community figures and their immediate relations, in contrast to the collective burials of the LBA, where individual identity is less apparent in surviving tomb deposits.[54]

Despite the smaller numbers, tombs of this period typically contained many clay vases in the new Proto-White Painted, White Painted and Bichrome repertoire, feasting equipment and weapons, in addition to more personal objects such as jewellery. These items are not well represented in the finds from the Turner Bequest excavations of 1895, but a number of the elaborate PWP/WP vessels from Hake’s excavations described below in Guide to the Collection II date to this period and almost certainly came from tombs in the Kaloriziki cemetery. Iacovou, however, has noted the existence of unprovenanced material from around the Episkopi area, which may derive from cemeteries that have not been identified or recorded by archaeologists.[55]

Plan of the cemetery of Kaloriziki, excavated by Daniel and McFadden in the 1930s. (Benson 1973, pl. 1; © P. Åströms förlag. Reproduced with kind permission)


The new tomb layout has been linked to the arrival of settlers from the Aegean world, since similar types were common at Late Helladic sites throughout the LBA.[56]  However, this form of tomb had been largely abandoned in Greece by the 11th century BC and its origin on Cyprus may instead be explained as a response by emerging élite groups to changing social and political circumstances. In particular, new extra-mural cemeteries offered greater potential for displaying the wealth and importance of the few individuals buried within; the physical effort to create the tomb was also far greater than the older types and would itself have been a sign of status. Finally, some of the dead at Kalorizki were cremated, a spectacular and expensive ritual that further emphasised the importance of the deceased.

Plan and section of Episkopi-Kaloriziki Tomb 19. (Benson 1973, pl. 10; © P. Åströms förlag. Reproduced with kind permission)

A handful of burials of this period were found at Bamboula by Walters (Site A) and Daniel, mostly consisting of a small numbers of items in disturbed contexts. However, an intact example excavated in 1989 by the Department of Antiquities provided a typical range of pottery items, but also a large clay bathtub of a type usually restricted to élite burials and other 13th- to 11th-century contexts, such as Palaepaphos-Skales Tomb 49.[57] 

  • ^ [43] - Benson 1973; Steel 1996; Buitron-Oliver 1999.
  • ^ [44] - Flourentzos 2010.
  • ^ [45] - E.g. Steel 1996.
  • ^ [46] - Buitron-Oliver 1997.
  • ^ [47] - Benson 1973, 30–1.
  • ^ [48] - McFadden 1954; Goring 1995.
  • ^ [49] - Benson 1973, Tombs 19 (burial 1), 25, 26 (burials 1 and 2), 41 (burial 1); Steel 1996; Cf. Kiely 2005, 177ff.
  • ^ [50] - Coldstream 1989; Catling 1995; Buitron Oliver 1997.
  • ^ [51] - See Guide to Collection I below; also Christou 1994.
  • ^ [52] - Bikai 1983.
  • ^ [53] - Benson 1973; Steel 1996.
  • ^ [54] - Steel 1995.
  • ^ [55] - Iacovou 1994, 157.
  • ^ [56] - Benson 1973, 19–24.
  • ^ [57] - Christou 1994, 180–3 and fig. 6; Cf. Karageorghis 1983.