In October 2009 an International Archaeological Symposium was organized on the island of Samos. The theme of the Symposium was “Cyprus and the East Aegean, Intercultural Contacts from 3000 to 500 BC”. The sponsors of the Symposium were the A. G. Leventis Foundation, the German Archaeological Institute of Athens and the John. F. Costopoulos Foundation. The published proceedings have just appeared, less than a year from the date of the event, thanks to a grant from the A. G. Leventis Foundation. The editors of the volume are Prof. V. Karageorghis, Director of the Foundation “Anastasios G. Leventis” and Dr. Ourania Kouka, Assistant Professor of the University of Cyprus.
In its 264 pages the volume comprises articles by twenty two scholars from various parts of Europe, including Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. No doubt this volume of the proceedings will be of basic importance for future research on a topic which is very much in the limelight of current archaeological research, as part of the wider study of cultural interconnections in the ancient Mediterranean. From quite an early date Cyprus and Crete took the initiative to organize international archaeological symposia on related subjects; their results have been promptly published and constitute to day a basic contribution to Mediterranean archaeology.
Cultural interconnections between Cyprus and the Aegean started already early in the 3rd millennium B.C., when the Cypriots adopted the know-how of tin bronze from the south-east and southern coasts of Anatolia. These contacts became closer during the second millennium B.C., when Cyprus was dominant in the Mediterranean as the most important supplier of copper and welcomed Greek colonists from Mycenaean Greece towards the end of the millennium. During the first millennium B.C. interconnections became even closer, not only in commerce, but also in culture, since the Aegean, particularly the eastern Aegean, constituted the gateway of communication with Anatolia and the Persian Empire. Furthermore the Aegean occupied a strategic position, as the rules of early navigation necessitated a passage through the south-eastern Aegean for those sailing from Cyprus to continental Greece and vice-versa.
Contacts between Cyprus and the Dodecanese were lively and continuous throughout the Late Bronze Age and the first half of the first millennium B,C. , something which was highlighted during a recent international archaeological symposium held on Rhodes in May 2009. As early as the 16th century B.C. there are numerous ceramic imports from Cyprus to Rhodes, where they are found mainly as tomb-gifts in the necropolis of Ialysos; on several occasions the Rhodians imitated Cypriote ceramics, not only their shape but also their decoration. This phenomenon continued also during the first millennium B.C., both on Cos and Rhodes. From the 8th to the 6th centuries B.C., when Cypriote kingdoms reached the peak of their wealth and power, and when the sanctuaries of Hera and Aphrodite flourished on Samos and Rhodes respectively, large quantities of Cypriote terracotta and limestone statues and statuettes found their way to these sanctuaries as votive offerings, where they were even imitated locally. The same may be said about the sanctuaries of Ionia, namely those of Cnidos and Miletus.
Communications at the Samos symposium cover the whole chronological spectrum, from the Prehistoric period down to the end of the Archaic period. I mention a few important titles of communications, which proposed new ideas and presented freshly excavated material:
-Ourania Kouka: Cross-cultural links. The Eastern Aegean/Western Anatolia and Cyprus, from the early third millennium to the early second millennium
-Penelope Mountjoy: Cyprus and the East Aegean, Mycenaean III C pottery connections.
-Reinhard Jung: Pirates of the Aegean: Italy-the East Aegean-Cyprus at the end of the second millennium B.C.
– James Muhly: The origin of the name “Ionian”.
-Helmunt Kyrieleis: Intercultural commerce and diplomacy. Near Easter, Egyptian and Cypriote artifacts from the Heraion of Samos.
-Jaqueline Karageorghis: Moulds, production and circulation of terracottas of Cypriote style in Cyprus and the East Aegean during the Archaic period.
-Reinhard Senff: Beasts, heroes and worshippers: statuettes made of Cypriote limestone for the Aphrodite sanctuary of Miletus.
– Numan Tune and others: Some remarks on the limestone figurines recently found at the Archaic sanctuary of Apollo in the territory of Cnidos.
– Antoine Hermary: The Ionian styles in Cypriote sculpture in the 6th century B.C.
The volume of the proceedings of the International Archaeological Symposium on Samos is in perfect harmony with modern trends in archaeology, which consider the Mediterranean as a cultural lake in which Cyprus played a pivotal role for about one thousand year, from about 1500 to about 500 B.C. The separating walls built by scholars of the first half of the 20th century are now demolished and people recognize the significant role of intercultural relations which shaped the civilizationsant, the Aegean and the Western Mediterranean. In this new scenario, Cyprus played an important role, not only as a place which receives foreign influences , but also as a place which produced culture which influenced the neighbouring civilizations.
The volume of the proceedings of the International Archeological Symposium on Samos is on sale at the offices of the Foundation “Anastasios G. Leventis” 40, Gladstone street.
1. Cypriote terracotta figurines from the Samian Heraion. 6th century B.C.
2. Cypriote limestone idols from the Samian Heraion. 6th century B.C.