Cyprus: a meeting point of cultures

Throughout its ancient history, Cyprus played an important role in mediating between the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean. Besides its favourable geographical position, it owed its significance mainly to the rich copper resources. The name of copper in Latin, aes Cyprium (and hence in a number of modern languages: Kupfer, cuivre) derives from the island’s name. The selection of copper objects (1–10) is a modest hint at the exquisite skills of Cypriote bronze workers.

As early as the Bronze Age, inhabitants of the island maintained intense contacts with neighbouring cultures. This is testified by Cypriote vessel forms of Syrian origin (11), and also by vases that were made in Cyprus but enjoyed popularity in many regions from Egypt through Hellas to Sicily, like the half-spherical bowls (12–13) and the base ring ware (14). Pieces related to the standing female figurine (15) are known from the ancient Middle East.

From the 12th–11th centuries BC onwards Greek, then Phoenician settlers arrived in the island, which, until the late 4th century BC, was divided into several independent kingdoms, partly under the hegemony of neighbouring Middle Eastern empires. The shape of the amphora (16) is of Greek origin, but its neck and shoulder are decorated with lotus flower motifs that derive from Mesopotamia. The two terracotta statuettes (17–18) are typical examples of Cypriot sculpture from the Archaic period.