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Engomi


The History of Famagusta

Enkomi 16th -12th centuries B.C
Late Bronze Age

At the beginning of the 16th century B.C. on the East coast of Cyprus, the ancient city of Enkomi appeared along the sea shore, on the north bank of Pedieos river. This was a small rural town that depended on the nearby port and was involved in the export of copper. This town was destined to become a large, prosperous and commercial town during the second half of the 2nd millennium B.C as copper was smelted in metallurgical workshops and then shipped for export to both east and west. A small city-kingdom developed from this prosperous copper activity, whose reputation and life is known to us from archaeological findings and historical texts. Mycenaean merchants from the Aegean used the town as a base for their trade with the Near East and were greatly enriched by the exploitation of copper. Following a natural catastrophe, Enkomi rapidly declined towards the 12th century B.C and its population moved eastwards and established a new centre on the coast around a natural harbour, known as Salamis.

The archaeological site and its history

Archaeological excavations undertaken in Enkomi date from 1870 when the brothers Luigi and Alessandro Palma di Cesnola discovered the site and exported numerous Bronze Age objects from the Necropolis. From 1934 until 1960, many archeologists undertook excavations (the British Museum in 1896, the Cyprus Museum with John Myers and Menelaos Markides in 1913, the Swedish Expedition in 1930) in Enkomi and many rich tomb gifts, Mycenaean vases and other gems were found that today adorn many museums. The French archeologist, Claude Schaeffer (that worked in neighbouring Ugarit in Syria) together with the French expedition and the Cypriot archaeologist Porphyrios Dikaios, from the Department of Antiquities, started archaeological excavations in Enkomi during the 1960’s. Unfortunately, the Turkish occupation put an end to all activity and made these sites inaccessible for archaeologists who had laboured for many years to unearth the monuments and study their history.


Gold plated finger ring from a tomb in Enkomi. 13th century B.C. Cyprus Museum

Description of the archaeological site

During the end of the 13th century B.C, Enkomi underwent profound changes. Monumental public buildings were erected and the whole town was fortified by an impressive ‘cyclopean wall’ that covered a distance of 400 metres. The city consisted of a main north-south road, and ten smaller parallel roads crossing at right angles. In the centre of the city, the large, open square paved with stone slabs was surrounded by administrative headquarters. The most impressive buildings lied on the main north-south artery and included a palace and three major sanctuaries. Evidence of copper work exists in all buildings. Archaeological findings have revealed 12 metallurgical workshops specializing in copper production.





Gold pendant in the form of a pomegranate, found in a 13th century tomb at Enkomi, Cyprus Museum
Bronze statuette of the Ingot God.
1230-1050 B.C. from Enkomi,
From the book "Cyprus Heritage",
Editions K.P.Kyriakou Ltd
Photo by Vassos Stylianou

Sanctuaries and Gods

Excavations have revealed that religious worship was intrinsically linked with the exploitation of copper. Three major sanctuaries date from this period. The largest was the sanctuary of the “Horned God” discovered by Porphyrios Dikaios, recalls Oriental prototypes. This deity was associated with Apollo. The “Ingot God” discovered by the French archaeologist Claude Schaeffer, was fully armed, carrying shield and spear, horned helmet, greaves and a short tunic. The base in the form of an ox-hide ingot is a reflection and identification with the god that protected the copper mines of Cyprus.

Bronze statuette of the Horned God
from Enkomi, 12th Century B.C.
From the book "Cyprus Heritage",
Editions K.P.Kyriakou Ltd
Photo by Vassos Stylianou
Archaeologist Porfyrios Dikaios with the statuette
of the Horned God in situ. Cyprus Museum


Early Writing

Scripts are probably some the most important findings in Enkomi. Evidence of writing has been found incised on numerous clay tablets in the form of the Cypro-Minoan script. The prehellenic Cypriot syllabary reigned supreme even after the official introduction of the alphabet by Evagoras I of Salamis in the 4th century B.C but also during Hellenistic times when the island was a Ptolemaic province. This type of writing has not been deciphered.



Clay tablet with the Cyprominoan Script from Enkomi. 13th century.
From the book "Cyprus Heritage", Editions K.P. Kyriakou Ltd
Photo by Vassos Stylianou

 

Bibliography

Courtois, J.-C., Lagarce, J. και Ε. Enkomi et le Bronze Recent a Chypre, Nicosie, 1986
Dikaios, P. Enkomi Excavations 1948-1958, I-III Mainz, 1969-71
Gjerstad, E κ.α. The Swedish Cyprus Expedition I, Stockhholm, 1934
Schaeffer C.F.A. Missions a Chypre, 1932-1935, Paris 1936
Schaeffer C.F.A. Enkomi-Alasia I. Nouvelles missions a Chypre, 1946-1950. Paris 1952
Schaeffer C.F.A. Alasia I, publie a l’occasionde la Xxe campagne de fouilles a Enkomi Alasia, Paris, 1971


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