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advanced technology 2004
PYRGOS-MAVRORAKI “Advanced Technology” in Bronze Age CyprusCNR—ITABC ARCHAEOLOGICAL MISSION AT PYRGOSNicosiaArchaeological MuseumJUNE 30- JULY 30, 2004The exhibition “Cyprus advanced country since 2000 BC”, will display findings from Pyrgos excavations, showing how advanced Cyprus was 4000 years ago in oil perfume, textile and metal production.Archaeologists have not enough evidence to demonstrate that the Cypriots were not only specializing in the copper industry but they also produced vast quantities of olive oil and traded with their neighbours in perfumes and textiles. They adopted techniques that were very modern in the Bronze Age and anticipated the achievements of the Mycenaean period.The digging of the industrial complex of Pyrgos, started in 1998, after two years of soundings and surveys (made in 1996 and 1997).The excavation of the site had in these years to front many logistic difficulties because of the peculiar conservation of the archaeological material, buried under the mud brick walls collapsed all together for a seismic event. The complex (actually brought to the light only for one fourth of its real dimension) belonging chronologically to the Early and Middle Bronze Age, was destructed indeed by a very violent earthquake, one day in between 1900 - 1850 B.C. This, however, preserved in its original position most of the objects and the outfit of the building, broken but restorable.The importance of the site, does not consist only on its rare identity of industrial complex but on its archaeological integrity which could supply precious documents for the historical reconstruction of the most ancient Mediterranean industrial system, about which we have many late epigraphic evidences in the administrative texts written on the Mycenaean B tablets found at Knossos, Pylo and Thebe of the XIV and XIII cent. BC. They are in relation with the working and the trade of three main products: the copper, the olive oil and the wool, and Cyprus are named in these. As a matter of fact, one of the main characteristic of the Bronze Age (2500-1050 B.C.) was the exploitation of the mineral wealth of Cyprus, and in particular copper, (cuprum in Latin), the metal which took the name of Cyprus itself (Kypros in Greek). The Island traded in copper throughout the Mediterranean Sea, receiving in return much wealth and knowledge. At Pyrgos there are all the phases of the copper processing: from the primary smelting till the composition of the alloys, with the final hammering and the refining at the fire of the objects. In short, the Cypriots already knew the secrets of technology required to work the copper.But Pyrgos excavations show that also oil, perfume and textile production were considerably advanced in that Age. Concerning the oil production, even if this installation is unique in Cyprus to date and it is one of the most ancient in all the Mediterranean area, it shows a technology to process the olive oil, which is not far from the system used till last century in most of the Mediterranean countries. This means that 4000 years ago Cypriots were producing oil in such large quantities that they needed 500 litres phlitos to store it. Part of the oil production was utilized in the perfume industry. The perfume processing is comparable to the one described by the Greek Mycenaean B tablets of Knossos and Pylo and by the famous Liber XIII of the Naturalis Historia of C. Plinio Secundus. At the moment the residues of essences found in the pits earth and inside the perfumes bottles are: Resin of Conifers, Citrus Bergamot, Coriander, Laurel, Myrtle, Bitter Almond, Cinnamon Camphor, Myrrh, Persil and Turpentine. The sector of the textiles production was extraordinary full of vases of high quality, probably used to contain clews of different fibres and colours. The analyses made in these vases, and inside two large spindle whorls, revealed the presence of fibres of wool, cotton, hibiscus and other vegetable fibres, dyed with blue indigo, yellow, light red, green and black. Cypriots were, in particular, using purple-red made from murex in order to dye textile fibres, a long time before the Phoenicians.At the moment Pyrgos is the only archaeological site, dating back to XIX cent. BC that offers evidence of the contextual working of these three products, five centuries before the Mycenaean recordings. But the building of Pyrgos doesn’t show the monumental characteristics of the Minoan and Mycenaean palaces. It looks like an artisan quarter organised in the very centre of the prehistoric settlement, probably carried out by a community socially organised with its proper working system. The discovery in the Ancient and Middle Bronze Age Cyprus of an industrial centre updates our knowledge on Cyprus economy and opens new arguments of discussions with the experts of Cypriote prehistory.These important findings allow the experts to figure the existence of great cities developed on the Island with busy cosmopolitan ports. Furthermore, since commercial transaction involved human contact and the exchange of ideas, knowledge and even philosophies and religions, Cyprus probably became an important cross-road of civilizations, as a result of its position between the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa.The settlement patterns of the Early-Middle Bronze Age Cyprus disappeared all over the island at the end of Middle Bronze. The large villages of 25-30 hectares were all abandoned contemporary and only fortresses of few hundreds of square meters survived till the end of the Middle Bronze age, attesting a sequence of tragic events, whose historical profile is difficult to reconstruct. However Cyprus is an island and it is known that in the islands the traditions continue for thousands of years. So it is not a surprise if we can find evidences of trade of copper, olive oil, perfumes and textiles between Cyprus and the Aegean in the Late Bronze Age. These should have ever been the most precious products exported by Cyprus not only in the II millennium BC. They have been made and exported in the Mediterranean even after the Roman period, and it is curious to notice, that now Cyprus still exports the same perfume essences (coriander, marjoram, time, canine rose etc..) for the perfume industry, as in the antiquity, and that it is the only country which gives its name to two of the family of perfumes, to whom belong all the scents of the world: the “Chypre” and the “leather Chypre”.The exhibition has been set up by CNR (Italian National Council for Research) which is performing excavations in Pyrgos, in cooperation with the Cypriot Antiquities Organization, the Pierides Foundation and the Associazione Dante Alighieri, Cyprus Branch.
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