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3. The sea


ANCIENT CYPRUS: Cultures in Dialogue

Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels
October 31, 2012 – February 17, 2013

3. The sea

Model of merchant ship, ca. 1650-1200 BC, Kazaphani-Ayios Andronikos, Department of Antiquities, Cyprus

The sea is both a threat and a blessing to islanders; while it separates people and causes the loss of life, it also opens paths to new worlds and offers opportunities for prosperity. It functions at the same time as a barrier and a communication route.

Cyprus was initially settled by people who came from the surrounding mainland (Levant and/or Anatolia). During the Neolithic period, marine resources were exploited to some extent but sea contacts were limited. When sailing and navigation technologies advanced in the late 3nd and 2nd millennium BC, Cyprus evolved into a major centre of maritime communication and trade.

Ship models, remains of ancient shipwrecks, and vast amounts of imports and exports testify to the crucial role of the sea for the economy and culture of ancient Cyprus.

Not only traders and commodities moved through the sea, though. High-quality artefacts were also exchanged, and often itinerant craftsmen and artists followed the routes of merchants. Artistic interaction was intense in the ancient Mediterranean, and gave rise to fascinating mixtures and amalgamations. Cypriot art, in particular, was in constant dialogue with the art of the Egyptians, the Levantines and Phoenicians, and the Greeks.


Fishhooks, 6th millenium BC,  Apostolos Andreas-Kastros, Department of Antiquities, Cyprus

Stone anchor, 12th c. BC, Hala Sultan Tekke, Department of Antiquities, Cyprus Cypro-Phoenician bowl, 750-600 BC, Amathus, British Museum

Mycenean rhyton, ca. 1350-1250 BC, Enkomi, Department of Antiquities, Cyprus Alabastron (jar), 4th c. BC, Polis Chrysochous-Ayios Dhimitrios, Department of Antiquities, Cyprus








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