Master of Arts (MA)
Religion & Culture / Religious Studies
Faculty of Arts
Lawrence E. Toombs
The end the Late Bronze (or Cypriote) period in Cyprus occurred shortly after 1100 BC, when an earthquake caused widespread destruction on the island. This coincided with the arrival of the last wave of refugees from Mycenaean Greece, who took advantage of the destruction of the Late Cypriote cities to establish their own colonies; this colonization is relfected in the foundation legends of most of the Iron Age cities.
The Iron Age in Cyprus lasted from about 1050 BC to about 475 BC, and is divided into two major periods, the Cypro-Geometric period (1050-750 BC), and the Cypro-Archaic period (750-475 BC). The early part of the Cypro-Geometric period was marked by strong Mycenaean influencces, but by the beginning of the ninth century BC the arrival of the Phoenicians at Kition, introduced a new element in the culture of the island. These three elements, the native Cypriote, the Myceneaean and the Phoenician, combined with other external elements, such as the Assyrian, the Persian and the Greek, to develop the culture of the Cypro-Archaic period.
No archaeological remains of any settlements of the Iron Age have been discovered, so far only sanctuaries and cemeteries of this period have been found. This means that our knowledge of this period is necessarily limited, but finds from the tombs and sanctuaries are very rich, especially in the Cypro-Archaic period, and indicate a very high standard of living.
Sanctuaries have been located in every part of the island; they range in type from the very simple, open-air sanctuary, like that at Ayia Irini, to elaborate city-temples, like that of Astarte at Kition. Most of the sanctuaries belong to an intermediate type, though a number of those of the simpler type can only be identified by the discovery of deposits of votary gifts.
Finds at the sanctuaries include sculptures, pottery, weapons, tools, jewellery and various types of seats and scarabs. The pottery was the main means by which a chronological framework for the period was developed. Association with pottery styles also gave absolute dates to the different styles of sculpture; the sculptures are regarded as an indication of foreign cultural influences and of the way the local Cypriote element absorbed them and combined with them.
The finds at the different sanctuaries are also an indication of the religious beliefs during this period. At some of the more primitive, rural, sanctuaries, like those at Ayia Irini and Patriki, the cult had remained almost unchanged from that of the Bronze Age. Other sanctuaries show a strong Phoenician influence, as in the case of Meniko-“Litharkes”, where the Phoenician god Baal-Hamman was worshipped. Aphrodite was the chief deity in Cyprus, but her cult had developed out of that of the prehistoric fertility or Mother-Goddess, and later it also combined with that of the Phoenician Astarte.
In short, Cyprus during the Iron Age stood at the crossroads of the eastern Mediterrenean world; this fact is reflected in its art and religion, which show influences from both Greece and the Near East. The local, Cypriote element, however, was always very strong, and remained virtually unchanged since the Bronze Age.
Chamberlain, Lenia, "Religious Sanctuaries in Ancient Cyprus During the Iron Age" (1986). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1359.