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Negotiating Island Interactions: Cyprus, the Aegean and the Levant in the Late Bronze-Early Iron Ages

Negotiating Island Interactions: Cyprus, the Aegean and the Levant in the Late Bronze-Early Iron Ages

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Published by: ArchaeoinAction on Jan 18, 2012
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04/16/2013

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Janes – Material Connections1
Negotiating Island Interactions: Cyprus, the Aegean and the Levant in theLate Bronze-Early Iron Ages
Sarah Janes
Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ,
Scotland 
 e-mail: sarahmjanes@hotmail.com
Abstract
This study examines interaction and change on the island of Cyprus between the end of the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, ca. 1100-700 BC, a period of great upheaval and transition following the collapse of large, regional palatial societies across the eastern Mediterranean. Building on previous research, I consider issues of insularity, connectivity and identity, and  focus on the materiality of multiple interactions and encounters — both internal and external —on the island by examining the complex and extensive mortuary remains. In addition, I reconsider how the material culture of death and burial was actively involved in the multiplesocial and spatial dynamics — maritime interactions, migrations and colonial encounters — following the increased mobility that occurred as the result of Mediterranean-wide upheavals at the end of the Late Bronze Age. I also examine the role these factors played in the subsequent emergence of small, local, hybridised polities involving native Cypriots and incoming people from the Aegean and Levant.
 
Janes – Material Connections2
Introduction
This paper takes as its subject the island of Cyprus from the end of the Late Bronze Age to theEarly Iron Age (1100-700 BC), a period of great upheaval, transition and increased mobilityfollowing the collapse of the large, regional palatial societies across the Mediterranean. Buildingon previous research, this study considers issues of insularity, connectivity and identity,focusing on the multiple internal and external interactions and encounters on the island at thattime. Through the examination of the complex, yet extensive extant mortuary remains, I explorethe materiality of social and cultural interaction on the island, considering how people of diversecultures and backgrounds interacted on the island through multiple connections – includingmaritime interactions, migrations, colonial encounters and intra-island contact. I then discusshow these interactions combined to contribute to the emergence of small, local, hybridised polities involving native Cypriots and incoming people from the Aegean and Levant.
Island Connections
Cyprus has long been seen as a ‘crossroads’ of multiple, complex interactions, acting as astepping-stone between east and west. Accordingly, the island has played a central role instudies of trade and exchange — long-distance and local, entrepreneurial and centralised — andof the movement and transfer of ideas, material culture and traditions across the Mediterranean.It is unsurprising, therefore, that Cyprus was deeply affected by the upheavals at the end of the13th century BC, when the major states of the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean, includingMycenaean palatial systems and Levantine centres such as Ras Ibn Hani and Ugarit, seem tohave undergone a major social and economic collapse (Iacovou 1998: 334-35; 1999b: 4-5; 2001:86; 2006a: 33-35; Karageorghis 1987: 117; 1992: 81; Rupp 1987: 147), leaving theMediterranean effectively free from outside interference by other states from the 12th-8thcenturies BC (Iacovou 1999a: 141-42; 2002: 84; 2005b: 21; 2006a: 33-34; Mazar 1994: 39). Theimpact of these Mediterranean-wide upheavals on Cyprus is reflected in the archaeologicalrecord by a series of abandonments and destructions at several Late Bronze Age sites across theisland. The disruption to the island, however, was relatively short-lived and old urban and statestructures seem to have been replaced rather soon by the emergence of a new socio-politicallandscape – the Archaic City-Kingdoms (Iacovou 1999a: 145-46; 2005b: 20-21).Despite the upheavals of the 13th century BC, the complex cultural mix that constitutedLate Bronze Age Cyprus continued to diversify throughout the Iron Age, facilitated by increasedMediterranean-wide mobility and movements. New and established connections, both withinand beyond the island, significantly impacted on its socio-political trajectory. The emerging
 
Janes – Material Connections3
social, political and cultural landscapes of the Cypriot Iron Age, however, have traditionally been explained in terms of external stimuli alone, with a particular focus on the influence of  both displaced Aegean peoples and incoming Phoenicians on Cypriot culture and society duringthe 11th-9th centuries BC. This one-dimensional approach simplifies the mechanics of socialand cultural interaction and underplays the complexity of the island’s socio-politicaldevelopment. The dynamic changes underway on the island in the Early Iron Age were theresult of multiple social and spatial dynamics, including internal island interactions and cross-island connections. This paper seeks to develop a more holistic approach, examining themateriality of all complex social and cultural encounters on the island at that time – both withinit and beyond it – exploring how these connectivities impacted on the renegotiation of social and political identities.
The Simplification of 
Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age
Socio-political and CulturalDevelopment
Traditional interpretations of the Late Bronze to Early Iron Age social and political trajectoryrely heavily on the perceived ‘ethnicity’ embedded in material culture and in the social and political practices that appeared on the island at the beginning of the Iron Age. The perceivedAegean colonisation of the island, the so-called ‘colonisation narrative’ (Knapp 2008: 249-58;Leriou 2002), argues for two waves of Aegean migration to the island. The first wavesupposedly occurred in LC IIC (around 1200 BC) following the collapse of Mycenaean palatialsociety, causing widespread unrest across the island but remaining somewhat invisiblearchaeologically (following Leriou 2002: 170; cf. Jung 2009). The second wave supposedlyoccurred in the Protogeometric (PG) period (otherwise LC IIIB), when Aegean material cultureand practices become apparent on the island — new mortuary locations, tomb architecture,Mycenaean-inspired pottery and other artefacts, and the Greek language (Iacovou 1998: 334-35;1999a: 148-52; 2001: 89-90; 2003: 81-83; 2005a: 127; 2006a; 2006b; Karageorghis 1994: 6;Leriou 2002: 170-71). From this point on the ethnically dominant element on Cyprus in the IronAge is argued to be Aegean in origin, with a new political system based on Greek kingship(Gjerstad 1926; 1948; Iacovou 1998: 339; Karageorghis 2002: 36; Rupp 1998: 209; Snodgrass1988: 12).
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The cause of such major changes to the social and political trajectory of the island hasalso been delegated to the Phoenicians, and again is corroborated mainly through the presence of ‘Phoenician’ material culture: certain temples in Kition dedicated to the Semitic deities Astarte

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