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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Erimi Culture (Chalcolithic) (Cyprus)
c.4000 - 2500 BC

Following the disappearance of the Sotira culture on Cyprus, the subsequent advent of the Erimi began one of the island's longest lasting archaeological cultural periods. This saw copper being used across the island and trade links being developed with the mainland. The island's population increased greatly, and clear signs become apparent of the development of social strata.

The Cypro-Minoan script was introduced into this growing social structure, but it was one which still failed to leave any written evidence of its existence. While copper objects have been found by archaeologists, what is not known is whether they were made on the island or imported, probably from Minoan Crete.

Pottery was of a fairly standardised form which was produced at a small number of sites on the western side of the island and then exported across the rest of it. The poor soils were probably responsible for the appearance of seals and large storage vessels in houses, from which food could be distributed under central control. It seems likely that, although there are at least five possible origins for the name 'Cyprus', the island gained it from its rich veins of copper ('kuprios' in Greek, which was passed down into Latin).

It is also during this period that the greater area of the city of Pafos, which includes the later necropolis which is known as the 'Tombs of the Kings', first became inhabited. This was part of a flourishing culture on the west coast of Cyprus. Unfortunately the later intensive use of the area largely rubbed out the Chalcolithic occupation layer. However, a loom weight has been found by archaeologists in the Northern Necropolis which bears eloquent witness to life at this time.

Chalcolithic pot found in Hebron, Israel

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Digging up the Tombs of the Kings, Sophocles Hadjisavvas (2014), from Archaeology in Greece, 1933-34, H G G Payne (The Journal of Hellenic Studies, The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, 1934), and from External Links: Cyprus Archaeological Sites (Cyprus Ministry of Culture & Sports), and Earliest Prehistory of Cyprus (Bryn Mawr College, an archaeology-led look at the early cultures on the island - dead link), and Ancient Origins, and Neolithic Settlement (Community Council of Khirokitia), and The Sotira Culture: Regional Diversity and Cultural Unity in Late Neolithic Cyprus (Taylor & Francis Online).)

c.4000 BC

The early Chalcolithic period on Cyprus emerges out of a hazy crossover period from the preceding Sotira culture in which that is abandoned and disappears without offering any direct continuity to the newly-emergent Erimi culture.

Khirokitia Culture houses
Erimi culture dwellings returned to the use of the roundhouse pattern which had been used by their Khirokitia cultural predecessors

c.3800 BC

No fortifications or weaponry are known for this 'Erimi' period which is named after a settlement on the south coast, revealing a still-peaceful island which probably has little external contact other than through its limited trade routes.

Settlements are of a variable size, but nothing to date which approaches an urban centre has been found. Houses return to the rounded construction style of the Khirokitia culture, replacing the Sotira's rectangular style.

c.3500 BC

The middle Chalcolithic sees the establishment of conventional settlement and funerary practices. The island would seem to be populated by tribes with regional chiefs in a moderately hierarchical structure. The 'Lemba Period I' is the earliest Chalcolithic site with wall foundations, which confirms the use of the roundhouse style.

Settlement at Khirokitia
The ancient cultural site of Khirokitia on the island of Cyprus sits alongside a modern recreation of the circular modules which formed the housing for these early farmers

c.2800 BC

The Late Chalcolithic sees the copper-using society on Cyprus being replaced by one which uses bronze, eventually as part of the Philia culture. New burial practices are introduced, along with changed pottery styles and settlement patterns. Far stronger trade links are set up too, all of which suggests an influx of new, more advanced people who probably subjugate the natives.

c.2500 BC

The Erimi culture of Chalcolithic Cyprus is now superseded in its entirety by the Bronze Age Philia culture as new, more advanced people seemingly arrive on the island who probably subjugate the natives.

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