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Copper Made Bronze Age Cyprus an Important Trade Hub

Copper Deposits Make Bronze Age Cyprus An Important Trade Hub
Because of its copper deposits, Bronze Age Cyprus became one of the most important trade hubs in the Mediterranean. Credit: Zde / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Recent archaeological excavations led by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition at the Hala Sultan Tekke on the south coast of Cyprus have revealed new insights into the area’s past.

The most recent discoveries indicate that the Hala Sultan Tekke complex on the west bank of Larnaca Salt lake, in the city of Larnaca, was far bigger than what was previously believed. It is estimated to have covered a large area and was one of the most important commercial centers in the eastern Mediterranean region during the Bronze Age.

Research Project Continued for 13 Seasons

The research project aims to map the island’s archaeological history. The most recent expedition, led by emeritus professor Peter Fischer of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Gothenburg, started in 2010 and has continued for 13 seasons.

The excavations have unearthed substantial numbers of luxury products made of gold, silver, ivory, and semi-precious gemstones, in addition to imported pottery and other commodities, which indicates that there was a strong demand for the city’s manufacture of copper.

According to Peter Fischer, “Our investigations and excavations show that Hala Sultan Tekke was larger than was previously thought, covering an area of some 25 to 50 hectares, which is a big city by that period’s standards. Usually, settlements at this time and in this area covered only a few hectares.”

Cyprus’ Mines and Copper Production

Cyprus’ mines produced more copper than any other in the Mediterranean during the Bronze Era. The sooty workshops of Hala Sultan Tekke were located in the city’s north. This was done so that the southerly breezes might carry the noxious smoke and odor away from the present city of Larnaca.

The excavations have revealed smelting furnaces, cast molds, and slag, all of which attest to the site’s rich history of copper manufacturing. Researchers have also found evidence that the ore used to produce the copper was transported to the area from mines in the neighboring Troodos Mountains.

Despite the hazardous nature of the copper production process, the area flourished due to its central location in the eastern Mediterranean and a well-protected harbor.

Evidence of Trade

Researchers have found abundant evidence of trade with neighboring regions, including  Greece, modern-day Turkey, the Middle East, and Egypt, as well as with further-flung destinations like Sardinia, the Baltic Sea region, Afghanistan, and India, in the form of pottery, jewelry, and other luxury items.

The research has also shown that highly sought-after purple-dyed textiles were produced in Hala Sultan Tekke. The purple mucus used to make the dye was harvested from a specific type of murex.

The area also exported earthenware decorated with human, animal, and plant motifs. The artist responsible for these painted themes has been dubbed the “Hala Sultan Tekke painter” by academics.

Peter Fischer notes, “The great thing about the many pottery finds is that we can assist our colleagues around the Mediterranean and beyond. No pottery has the same spread as the coveted Cypriot pottery during this period. By finding locally made pottery that we can date in the same layer as other imported pottery that was previously difficult to date, we can synchronize these and help colleagues date their finds.”

Name of Hala Sultan Tekke

The Bronze Age city (3300 BC-1200 BC) was given the name Hala Sultan Tekke, after the mosque that was built ( 1760-1817 AD) not far from the excavation site.

After more than 500 years as a significant trading center, the city eventually fell, around 1200 BC, along with numerous other advanced Bronze Age civilizations in the Mediterranean.

Around this period, it was widely believed that an invasion by the “Sea Peoples” wiped out the Bronze Age civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean by demolishing their towns.

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