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Cyprus

Remains of a ‘thriving city’

By Jean Christou

Archaeologists have discovered a treasure trove of information at the ancient site of Dromolaxia-Vizatzia, close to the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in Larnaca, a city that was destroyed in 1200BC and never resettled.

The department of antiquities said on Wednesday that the site had been excavated by a Swedish team, under the direction of Professor Peter M. Fischer from the University of Gothenburg. The dig in May and June had exposed city quarters dating to the later part of the Late Bronze Age – 14th to 12th centuries BC.

“Only a small portion of the city, the history of which goes back to the 16thcentury BC, has so far been excavated,” the department said.

The city was founded in the 16th century BC, flourished especially in the 13th century BC but was destroyed in the 12th century BC. It was abandoned after the destruction and never reoccupied again.

“The reasons for the decline of the city and its abandonment are still unclear but raids by foreign peoples and climatic changes should be taken into account,” it added.

In order to map structures below the surface prior to the excavations, ground penetrating radar and magnetometer devices were used.

The project resulted in the discovery of hitherto unknown city quarters. Ground penetrating radar produces X-ray-like images of buried stone structures reaching two metres beneath the surface.

A magnetometer showed various man-made structures, areas with fire places, concentrations of pottery and pits for storage or refuse. The 2014 excavations confirmed the radar and magnetometer results, the department said.

In an approximately one metre-wide circular pit a complete, doughnut-shaped, ingot of a copper-tin alloy with a weight of almost exactly 1.5 kg was found.

The ingot was analysed on the spot with a portable XRF device, which established it was 95.5 per cent copper, 2.6 per cent tin with traces of iron, zinc, lead, nickel, cobalt, vanadium, titanium and sulphur.

Excavations next to the copper-producing area exposed domestic buildings where small-scale industrial production was carried out. This includes the production and dyeing of textiles, and the production of pottery. Many finds were made in this quarter where pottery – locally produced and imported – mainly, Mycenaean items were abundant.

Other finds included personal items such as rings, earrings and bronze tools. “The quality of the finds in this specific area of the city demonstrates that the people who produced copper could afford such luxury goods and that they seem to belong to an elevated social class,” the department said.

The expedition also identified five wells which were partly exposed. In one of the wells, a complete figurine of a bull was found. This find was most likely an offer to please the “God of the Well”. But it appeared that after the well dried up, it was used as a dump. The complete skeleton of a horse was discovered there and among the bones  “a beautifully carved cylinder seal of haematite” was found, believed to be of Syrian origin. It shows a hunting scene with three hunters and three hunted horned animals.

Two other wells were also dried out and contained six human skeletons, believed to have been slaves since no items were found buried with them.

“However, one of the skeletons had an intentionally modified skull a characteristic usually connected with people of an elevated social status,” the department said. “Cranial modification (head shaping) was carried out during infancy and may reflect ancient beauty trends.”

It said the production of copper and bronze were essential for the economy of the people at Dromolaxia-Vizatzia as bronze was one of the most coveted materials at the time, and used for the manufacture of objects such as weapons, tools and jewellery.

“The high standard of living of the Cypriots during the Bronze Age was not only based on the production of copper but also on the export of Cypriot pottery of high quality, and purple textiles. In exchange, the Cypriots imported gold, silver, lead, and objects of art mainly from Greece, Egypt and the Levant,” the department said.

 

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