Έμβλημα της Κυπριακής Δημοκρατίας Τμήμα Αρχαιοτήτων

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The Looting of Cultural heritage in Occupied Cyprus




Toumba tou Skourou

    The archaeological site of Toumpa tou Skourou lies on the north bank of the Ovghos River, near the modern town of Morphou in northwest Cyprus. Since 1974 the area is controlled by the Turkish occupation forces. The site was excavated from 1971 until 1974 by the Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston under the directorship of Emily T. Vermeule. Toumba tou Skourou is situated at the centre of a group of known and investigated archaeological sites near the island’s west coastline (Petra tou Limniti: Neolithic; Soloi: Mycenaean to Roman; Pentayia: Bronze Age tombs; Agia Irini: pygmy hippopotami fossils, Bronze Age tombs, Roman settlement; Stefania: Bronze Age tombs and Myrtou Pigades: Bronze Age sanctuary).

Toumba tou Skourou

    The archaeological remains at Toumba tou Skourou are undoubtedly part of a larger Bronze Age town which has unfortunately not survived due to later interventions (i.e. use of its masonry for building material). In addition, the site is surrounded by citrus fruit orchards which possibly cover the rest of the remains. The site is situated on an oblong mound in the north, which is separated by a pebble ramp from a group of houses on the south. The houses’ entrances faced a street that lay parallel to the river. The tomb area lies to the east.

    Habitation is noted at the site from 1600 B.C. and the first dwellers possibly came from nearby Lapethos in the Kyrenia area. Although several Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites have been located in the Morphou area, an earlier settlement has not been found at Toumba tou Skourou. Towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age many of the island’s important sites seem to develop.

    The settlers at Toumba tou Skourou constructed a massive terrace wall approximately 30m long. In the eastern part of the site a water channel was unearthed, probably an indication that the area was swampy and that the mound upon which the settlement was built was raised artificially, creating the impression of a small island.

    The site consisted of buildings that were probably used as workshops. These were divided by low walls resembling benches that were capped with slabs of fine laminated gypsum. The large quantities of pottery collected, along with the traces of vessels positioned in a line along one of the walls, indicate the existence of pottery workshops. The variety of clays found, possibly collected from the Ovghos riverbed, were used for the manufacture of a wide range of fine ware pottery, characteristic of the transitional period from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age.

Toumba tou Skourou: White Painted jug
with shepherd and bull on its shoulders.

    The settlement was abandoned at around 1550 B.C. possibly after an earthquake. The site was consequently filled in and raised 2 m above its previous level. During this phase new floors were laid and new benches and kilns installed. Furthermore, an impressive industrial installation for the processing of clay was built along the mound’s south flank. The installation’s building was two meters high and measures 14.50X6.00m. Its floor is made out of crushed waterproof stone and includes a series of interlocking basins and two huge storage pithoi which were set into the floor functioning as reservoirs or settling-traps.

    At around 1400 B.C. the building underwent changes; new brick walls were built along with additional industrial installations. There is evidence that metal working activities also occurred in the building during this phase. The three rectangular buildings, situated close to the river and to the south of the ramp, were laid with new floors and new walls and wells were built. House B is of special interest comprising of six rooms with plaster and flagstone floors. A large number of pithoi was found within the largest room, some of which measure more than six feet high. This room probably functioned as a pithoi salesroom. In the building’s open court there is evidence that spinning and weaving were carried out. House B’s final phase is dated to around 1220 B.C.

    The remains of the Mycenaean period (12th c B.C.) at Toumba tou Skourou have not been found in situ but are disturbed and scattered around the mound. The next phase of occupation is in the Cypro-Geometric III period until the Archaic I (around 700 B.C.). The remains belonging to this period are very fragmentary.


    Tomb V is the earliest dated tomb at Toumba tou Skourou and is contemporary to the founding of the settlement at the end of the Middle Bronze Age. The tomb contained a number of burials and among the grave goods are imported vessels (Tell el Yehudiyeh) but also imitations of imported wares.

    The large circular shaft of Tomb I is dated to the end of the 16th c. B.C. (1550 – 1525) and it was sunk underneath the mound. It consists of 13 niches for infant burial and three chambers for the burial of approximately 36 adults. Tomb I is the largest and richest tomb in the Morphou area and it was used for at least 100 years. The tomb’s grave goods consist of a representative sample of the different vase styles found in the Morphou area until the end of the 15th c. B.C. Eight hundred vases were unearthed along with gold, silver, bronze and ivory objects, jewelry and cylinder seals. In addition, imported vases were found (Tell el Yehudieh, Palestinian Bichrome vases and fragments of Minoan pottery.

    The settlement’s latest burial was a burial in Tomb 2 (chamber 4) dated to the so-called ‘Amarna Age’, around 1350 B.C. A young woman was buried in an existing family chamber and was surrounded by rich grave goods (ivory, glass objects and lapis lazuli).

Vermeule, E. 1974, Toumba tou Skourou. The Mound of Darkness: A Bronze Age Town on Morphou Bay in Cyprus. Cambridge.

Vermeule, E., F. Wolsky. 1990, Toumba tou Skourou. A Bronze Age Potter's Quarter on Morphou Bay in Cyprus. Boston.


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