In the earliest interval of worldwide commerce within the Mediterranean area, the island of Cyprus was a surprisingly busy buying and selling hub. Its exalted standing throughout the Late Bronze Age (1,500 to 1,150 BC) was made attainable by its large provides of pure Cyprus copper, which was mined in copious portions close to the traditional Cypriot village of Hala Sultan Tekke.
Archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden confirmed Cyprus’s position within the Mediterranean’s first subtle worldwide commerce community throughout current excavations at Hala Sultan Tekke , unearthing a dizzying number of client gadgets that might not have been mined or manufactured domestically 3,500 years in the past.
“We have found huge quantities of imported pottery in Hala Sultan Tekke, but also luxury goods made of gold, silver, ivory and semi-precious gemstones which show that the city’s production of copper was a trading commodity in high demand,” mentioned excavation chief Peter Fischer in a University of Gothenburg press launch saying his staff’s newest discoveries.
Drone picture of Hala Sultan Tekke on the island of Crete with its excavated metropolis quarters within the foreground, the harbor to the left and the Mediterranean Sea within the background. ( University of Gothenburg / CC BY 4.0)
A Thriving Cypriot City Built on Copper
Researchers from Sweden first started performing excavations on Cyprus in 1927, below the authority of the Swedish Cyprus Expedition. The most up-to-date explorations on the island began in 2010 and have remained ongoing below Peter Fischer’s management (as an emeritus professor of archaeology, Fischer has been free to dedicate himself utterly to this venture).
The digs that produced the revealing cache of historical luxurious client items passed off close to the fashionable metropolis of Larnaca on Cyprus’s south seacoast, which isn’t removed from the island’s immense copper deposits.
As Fischer defined in a paper simply printed within the Journal of Archaeological Science , the complete growth of the island’s copper mines beginning round 1,500 BC reworked tiny Hala Sultan Tekke into a bustling and affluent buying and selling heart.
“It is now clear that long-distance exchange, based on the large-scale intra-urban production and distribution of copper, involved regional and more distant suppliers of coveted goods, and resulted in the transition of the settlement from a late 17th century B.C. village to a trade hub with a minimum extent of 25 hectares [62 acres],” he wrote.
Imported items from Sardinia (1), Italy (2), Crete (3), Greece (4), Türkiye (5), Israel (6), Egypt (7), Iraq (8), necklace with beads and a scarab (Ramesses II) from Egypt, Afghanistan and India (9) have all been present in Hala Sultan Tekke. ( University of Gothenburg / CC BY 4.0)
Excavating the Trade Hub on Cyprus
His staff found that the town’s central or downtown space coated 14 hectares or 35 acres of floor, all of which was protected inside a thick perimeter wall. Excavations have discovered indicators of human exercise exterior the wall as properly, and that is the premise for Fischer’s estimate that the buying and selling hub will need to have been no less than 25 hectares or 62 acres in dimension in whole (he believes it may need truly been twice this huge, though additional excavations shall be wanted to show this).
While earlier discoveries had produced proof of some historical worldwide commerce in Cyprus, that is the primary research that has precisely measured the true scope of the island’s participation in Late Bronze Age alternate networks.
“Usually, settlements at this time and in this area covered only a few hectares,” he mentioned, noting that Hala Sultan Tekke was possible no completely different at first. But this once-small village was sitting on the proverbial gold mine—or on this case, a copper mine, which was so productive that its tons of output might have simply been traded for a huge quantities of gold (as a few of it truly was).
Why Copper Was Worth its Weight in Gold within the Bronze Age
The Late Bronze Age (1,500 to 1,150 BC) spawned the Mediterranean area’s earliest worldwide buying and selling community. Following the latest discoveries of the Swedish archaeologists, is evident that the copper deposits of Cyprus helped spur this sudden burst of exchange-based financial exercise.
Throughout the Bronze Age, Cyprus was the biggest producer of copper within the Mediterranean area. Pure copper could possibly be alloyed with tin to make bronze, which might then be used to fabricate a broad number of sturdy instruments and weapons and enticing items of bijou.
“Remains in the city show extensive copper production in the form of smelting furnaces, cast molds and slag,” Fischer mentioned. “The ore from which the copper was extracted was brought into the city from mines in the nearby Troodos Mountains. The workshops produced a lot of soot and were placed in the north of the city so that the winds mainly from the south would blow the soot and the stench away from the city.”
People could have been unaware of it on the time, however copper smelting of this kind produced harmful portions of poisons like arsenic, lead and cadmium. The individuals of Hala Sultan Tekke and the encircling area could have developed sicknesses as a results of their frequent publicity to such substances, however they could not have understood the true trigger of those maladies.
But the worth of copper and bronze on the worldwide buying and selling market wouldn’t have been a secret to anybody. Not solely did the island have a lot of copper to mine, however its selection location within the japanese Mediterranean and its calm and well-protected southern harbor made it a simple place for early Mediterranean mariners and merchants to search out and go to.
Excavations on the island, together with the most recent one, have discovered beneficial pottery, jewellery and luxurious items of all kinds introduced by individuals’s residing in what are actually Greece, Turkey, Egypt and different Middle Eastern nations. Long-distance imports have additionally been unearthed, displaying that merchants arrived with items to commerce for copper and bronze from the lands of modern-day India, Afghanistan, Sardinia and the Baltic Sea area.
While its prize export was undoubtedly copper, Cyprus did additionally produce different items that had worth in commerce. This included uncommon purple-dyed textiles and extremely prized ceramic pottery that featured vividly painted pictures of vegetation, animals and folks.
A number of gold and stone jewellery excavated at Hala Sultan Tekke in Crete. ( University of Gothenburg / CC BY 4.0)
From Greatness to Collapse: The End of the Copper Empire
The Bronze Age “village-that-became-a-city” was not known as Hala Sultan Tekke by its founders. This label was positioned on it by the Swedish archaeologists, who named it after a mosque that sits close to the excavation website.
Whatever its unique title, discoveries on the website present that the settlement remained an lively buying and selling hub for practically 5 centuries. But like so many different extremely affluent Bronze Age civilizations within the area, Hala Sultan Tekke skilled a sudden and surprising downturn in its fortunes someday throughout the twelfth century BC.
For a very long time, the prevailing speculation has been that enigmatic invaders often called the Sea Peoples arrived within the japanese Mediterranean presently and destroyed its cities and conquered its lands, till little was left of what had stood earlier than. However, in response to Peter Fischer this concept is simply too simplistic. What dethroned Cyprus from its standing as a world buying and selling heart, he believes, concerned a extra advanced interaction of pure and unnatural forces.
“There are now new interpretations of written sources from this period in Anatolia (modern-day Türkiye), Syria and Egypt, which tell of epidemics, famine, revolutions and acts of war by invading peoples,” he defined.
“In addition, our investigations indicate that a deterioration in the climate was a contributing factor. All of this may have had a domino effect, that people in search of better living conditions moved from the central Mediterranean towards the south-east, thus coming into conflict with the cultures in modern-day Greece, on Cyprus and in Egypt.”
Regardless of what ended Cyprus’s run as a main hub for worldwide commerce, the most recent discoveries reveal that the island’s Bronze Age glory days have been certainly extra superb than anybody might have imagined.
Top picture: Copper slag excavated at Hala Sultan Tekke. Source: University of Gothenburg / CC BY 4.0
By Nathan Falde