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  Cypriot Copper: Mysteries of the Bronze Age

Textual Evidence

The modern name of Cyprus is commonly thought to derive from the Latinised form of the Greek word cuprum, but in fact there is no evidence for the use of this term until the 1st century AD. The Greek word for copper is xalkos. ka-ko has been translateas copper on Bronze Age Linear B tablets which are the earliest known written form of Greek. The Latin word for copper is not cuprum, but aes, aeris. The root of aes, aeris is from the Proto Indo-European aios. Galen and Pliny are the Classical sources for information about copper and metallurgy.

The only script from the Bronze Age found on Cyprus is called "Cypro-Minoan", which consists of characters that were incised on objects or written into baked clay tablets. The script is not yet fully understood. It is likely that these symbols had an administrative use. The earliest example so far was found at Enkomi, and dated to c. 1500 BC (Karageorghis 1982, 63). Some characters of Cypro-Minoan are engraved on this jug and the two sherds.
  Pot Sherd (AN1953.391) Pot Sherd (AN1960.671) Jug (AN1963.162)
  Pot Sherd, Hala Sultan Tekke-Viraja, from excavations by H. Catling (AN1953.391) Pot Sherd, Enkomi, from excavations by H. Catling (AN1960.671) Jug, Myrtou-Pigadhes, from excavations by the Ashmolean and Sydney University (AN1963.162)
  Other terms in various languages thought to refer to Cyprus or ancient metals include:
zabar (<sipar)
xalkos; khalkos
xalkos; kuwkos
Mycenean (Linear B)


aes, aeris
  Letters found at Tell El-Amarna in Egypt record communications between the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten (1350-1334BC) and foreign leaders in the period equivalent to the middle of the Late Bronze Age. One set of letters records a series of tributary gifts sent from the King of Alashiya, which some scholars identify as the name of Cyprus in the Bronze Age.
  Text of Letter 40. From the Minister of Alasia to the Minister of Egypt.

ahi a-na [p]a-n[i Su-m]i-it-ti
9 eru 2 si-in[-nu s]a [b]i-ri
I isu sa [elippi] as-pu-ru-u[s-su]
u s[u-tu mi]-im-ma l[a]-a i-din-[nu]
[a-n]a [ia-s]i u at-ta si-in-n[u]
s[u-p]u-ra-am-ma ahi-ia
i-nu-ma a-na su-ul-ma-ni-ka
5 eru 3 bilat eri ta[b]i
I i[s]u sa elippi ul-te-bil

My brother, t[o Sum]itti I have sent
nine (talents) of copper, two [e]le[ph]ant's tus[ks],
one ship (load of) wood;
but he has given
[m]e nothing. So send thou now
ivory, my brother.
Now, as a present for thee,
five (talents) of copper, three talent(s) of good copper,
one elephant's tusk, one piece of box-wood,
one ship (load of) wood, I have sent.


For a variety of reasons, not all academics agree that Alashiya should be translated as Cyprus.

Questions about the textual evidence.

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