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  Cypriot Copper: Mysteries of the Bronze Age

Copper in Bronze Age Cyprus

There is evidence that copper was used in Cyprus as early as 3000 BC, with copper smelting beginning about 2500 BC. Copper is thought to be one of the key reasons that Cyprus first attracted the attention of foreign cultures.


Objects made in places outside Cyprus are often found on Bronze Age sites on the island. These items must have been imported from other areas, and were likely exchanged for copper that was mined and turned into ingots on the island.

In the Early Bronze Age, Cyprus had trading links with Anatolia [modern day Turkey] and the Levant [modern day Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan]. These trading practices continued into the Middle Bronze Age. At the end of the Middle Bronze Age, there was a sudden increase in trade with the Mycenaean culture on the Greek mainland. This increase is shown in the archaeological record by the appearance of great quantities of Mycenaean pottery in layers dating to c. 1900 B.C. Trade with the Levant continued at this time, as is shown by the massive quantities of Cypriote pottery that has been found in Late Bronze Age sites in the Levant.

Jug of Mycenaean type (AN1953.233)
Jug of Mycenaean type,
from Kormakiti, Kyrenia (AN1953.233)

The major settlements on Bronze Age Cyprus were located near copper sources and copper smelting workshops. There was also evidence indicating trade with the Levant, North Syria, Egypt, Alalakh, Ugarit, the Palestine, Rhodes, Melos, Thera and Crete.

For maps of these locations go to the Oriental Institute Map Series web pages


In the Early and first part of the Middle Bronze Age, Cyprus was considered by some scholars to have been unaffected by external influences in the stylistic development of their copper wares. In the Late Bronze Age, however, this changes and objects produced on Cyprus suddenly seem to reflect iconography that originated in the Aegean, Anatolia and the Levant.

In about 1075 BC, there was an earthquake on Cyprus at Enkomi. It is debatable what affect this earthquake had on the rest of the island, but by the end of the Bronze Age most of the settlements on Cyprus show signs of destruction. This decline is thought to have been caused by a possible invasion by the 'Sea Peoples' (c.1200BC), a group likened by some to pirates, whose ethnic origin is hotly debated.

Questions about Mining

Juglet of Mycenaean type (AN1953.234)
Juglet of Mycenaean type,
from Kormakiti, Kyrenia
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