Absolute Age Range of the Late Cypriot IIC Period on Cyprus

Article excerpt

Introduction

Late Cypriot (LC) IIC marks the high point of 2nd-millennium BC civilization on Cyprus. A number of monumental buildings occur at various sites around the island, usually associated with large settlements of 10+ ha (Negbi 1986; Astrom & Herscher 1996), and there is extensive evidence of involvement in Mediterranean trade systems (Knapp & Cherry 1994: 123-67). Until now, absolute dates for the period have been estimated solely on the basis of material culture associations between Cyprus and the historically dated civilizations of Egypt and the Near East (often indirectly via imports of Aegean ceramics both to Cyprus, and Egypt and the Near East). No direct and independent chronometric data existed. We report sets of radiocarbon determinations relevant to the beginning and end of LCIIC. These data offer a firm chronology for this key period, and, moreover, demonstrate the general validity of the conventional Late Bronze Age (LBA) chronologies for the region.

LCIIC period and traditional dating

The formal definition of the LCIIC period was codified by Astrom (1972a; 1972b; see also Kling 1989: 6-55), and then articulated in subsequent excavations (Kling 1989: 55-82). It represents the climax of LC civilization, and correlates with the final century or so of the great palatial civilizations of the Aegean and Near East. The close of the period coincides with the region-wide collapse of the LBA palatial trading systems of the east Mediterranean (Drews 1993)--a process that began c. 1200 BC. This approximate date is determined from material culture linkages with the historically derived chronology of Egypt (Kitchen 1996).

On Cyprus the evidence for the close of the LCIIC period varies. Some sites were abandoned or destroyed around the close of LCIIC, but others were not, or were rebuilt. Further, whereas past scholarship held that there was a clear distinction in the material culture between LCIIC and the subsequent LCIIIA period, today it is argued that there is no clear distinction between the end of LCIIC and the start of LCIIIA. Kling (1989) therefore introduced the concept of an LCIIC/IIIA transition phase. This detailed issue is not the subject of the present paper focused on the absolute chronology of the main traditional LCIIC period; thus the LCIIC/IIIA transition phase will be considered as approximately synonymous with the early LCIIIA period in the text below.

On the basis of extensive ceramic associations and exchanges, LCIIC is broadly correlated with the Late Helladic (LH) IIIB period in the Aegean, notwithstanding certain problems of detail (Kling 1989: 170-71). Some scholars have speculated that the close of the period lies slightly later in the early LHIIIC period, but the evidence is not clear-cut. In view of the Aegean-Cypriot-Egyptian linkages, and their interpretation, a variety of fairly similar dates have in turn been proposed for LCIIC: TABLE 1.

TABLE 1. Dates proposed for the LCIIC period on the basis of
Aegean-Cypriot-Egyptian material culture linkages.

scholars                          dates proposed for LCIIC period

Astrom 1972b: 760-62              1320-1190 BC
Merrillees 1977:46                1325/1300-1225/1200 BC
Warren & Hankey 1989: 118, 169    late 14th century BC to unspecified
                                   point after 1185/1180 BC
Merrillees 1992: 51               1300-1200 BC

However, in view of the indirect and sometimes circular method of art-historical dating employed in all these estimates, the need for direct and independent dating evidence is self-evident. And, in reverse, if independent absolute dates are available for LCIIC, then these are relevant to the chronology of the other contemporary east Mediterranean civilizations.

This project

We sought suitable samples for radiocarbon dating relevant to either the beginning or end of the LCIIC period from recent excavations or study at several of the main sites on Cyprus: FIGURE 1. …