Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters


Cypriot-German Cooperation for the Interdisciplinary Investigation of a New Late Bronze Age Regional Centre in Cyprus

In June 2004, an exceptionally rich bronze hoard was found on top of the hill Kraltepe/Vasili ("King's Mountain") close to the village of Kaleburnu/Galinoporni on the Karpaz peninsula, Cyprus. It contains 26 very fine bronze objects - among them 16 vessels and 3 incense burners. Similar objects have only been found in connection with elites in Cyprus and the Levant. The Kraltepe/Vasili bronze objects, along with a ceramic stirrup jar found right next to them, date from the phase Late Cypriot IIC/IIIa of the Cypriot Bronze Age (13th-12th century BC).

Kraltepe/Vasili is a hill that looms steeply approx. 100 m from the surrounding fertile plains with large terraces on its eastern and southern slopes. Traces of settlement are visible almost everywhere on its surface. On the top plateau, which is about 30 m higher than the highest terraces, clear architectural structures are visible and lots of sherds of large storage vessels. Its exposed topographical position, the unusually large storage capacity and above all the exquisite bronze hoard suggest it was an elite residence and/or a sanctuary. We may therefore assume that the settlement was an administrative centre. This is underlined by its strong vertical structure.

By contrast with the rest of the island, such centres are unknown on the Karpaz peninsula. This is probably due to a lack of systematic archaeological research. The Kraltepe/Vasili project therefore offers the unique chance to examine an almost unknown Bronze Age cultural landscape. The analysis of this exceptional site is thus being carried out in conjunction with an investigation into its economic and cultural environment.

Apart from their scientific importance, the excavations in summer 2005 and detailed documentation of the architectural structures and finds on the top plateau became necessary because of imminent dangers to the site. Its exposed position and geological composition (limestone) have led to heavy erosion of the hill, and the activities of looters after the discovery of the hoard threatened to cause substantial damage to the site. The excavations of the central part of the settlement are complemented by geophysical surveys of the rest.

In addition, the settlement area in the surroundings of Kraltepe/Vasili which is naturally limited by the sea and mountain ranges is being surveyed archaeologically and geophysically. The acquisition of the data is being supported by GIS which will give information about the internal structure and development of the region. This will make it possible for the first time to get a deeper insight into the very complex archaeological potential of the Karpaz peninsula.

In antiquity, the peninsula had an extremely advantageous geographical position close to one of the busiest shipping routes in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the Karpaz is the part of Cyprus closest to the most important economic and cultural areas in the northern Levant and in southeastern Anatolia. From the Late Bronze Age on, relations with these areas became particularly intense as the island's immense copper ore resources were important to the complex societies of the Eastern Mediterranean. Under Near Eastern influence, wealthy settlements with urban structures emerged in Cyprus. Kraltepe/Vasili has now become the first of them to be discovered on the Karpaz.

The bronze hoard from Kraltepe/Vasili is the presently largest one known in Late Bronze Age Cyprus. It consists of finished objects and is the only one that also comprises three incense burners. Apart from two fragments, these top-quality toreutical products have their only close parallels outside Cyprus in the Levantine cities of Ugarit, Megiddo, Akko and Beth Shan. Apart from comparable finds in other parts of Cyprus, the geographical distribution of comparable objects clearly suggests connections to the Levant, indicating far-reaching supraregional contacts of the ruling elite on Kraltepe/Vasili.

Finds from Kaleburnu/Galinoporni: Spindle whorl with Cypro-Minoan script (left), quartz bead (center), wall painting (right). In order to achieve a detailed and comprehensive survey of the cultural and historical background of the hoard, and to gain knowledge about details of production, the objects are being thoroughly documented and analysed using scientific methods. Research in the literature and museums make it possible to narrow down the likely provenance of the objects and the distribution of typological parallels.
The project has been integrated into the existing programme of exchange of students and lecturers between Cyprus (Eastern Mediterranean University) and Germany (Institute of Prehistory and Medieval Archaeology of the University of Tübingen). For the first time, this rescue excavation provides the chance to investigate the great cultural heritage of the region, which has remained uninvestigated for more than three decades, within the framework of an international collaboration.