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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Early Cyprus

FeatureThe system which has evolved to catalogue the various archaeological expressions of human progress is one which involves cultures. For well over a century, archaeological cultures have remained the framework for global prehistory. The earliest cultures which emerge from Africa and the Near East are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, right up until human expansion reaches the Americas. The task of cataloguing that vast range of human cultures is covered in the related feature (see link, right).

The island in Europe's Mediterranean Sea which is now (and has long been known as) Cyprus may have spent much of recorded history being occupied by various major powers, but prior to that it was home to a series of archaeological cultures which chronicle the earliest attempts there at settlement.

According to archaeological investigation, the earliest presence on the island of anatomically modern humans dates to the period around 10,000 BC, as the most recent ice age was ending. The pre-Neolithic Akrotiri culture charts several visits by humans, but this can be hard to detect as there were no permanent settlements at that time. It is not until the Late Aceramic Neolithic's Khirokitia culture that a permanent presence was established, and even that was largely replaced by later arrivals.

In subsequent centuries, seafaring and trading peoples from the Mediterranean countries, and especially the Levant, set up scattered settlements along the coast. By the Bronze Age in Europe, Cypriots had an advanced, Indo-European civilisation which had a written language, as did the advanced civilisation on Minoan Crete.

The first Mycenaean colony is believed to have been founded by traders from Arcadia about 1400 BC, but Mycenaean culture appeared at least two centuries before that. The recorded history of ancient Cyprus began with occupation of part of the island by Egypt and then the foundation of the kingdom of Alashiya.

Khirokitia inhabitation on Cyprus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Digging up the Tombs of the Kings, Sophocles Hadjisavvas (2014), from Ancient Israel and Its Neighbours: Interaction and Counteraction. Collected Essays Vol 1, Nadav Na'aman, from The Cambridge Ancient History, edited by I E S Edwards, from Civil-military relations, nation building, and national identity: comparative perspectives, Constantine Panos Danopoulos (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004), from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, from Investigating Archaeological Cultures: Material Culture, Variability, and Transmission, Benjamin W Roberts & Marc Vander Linden (Eds), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and History Extra, and World Statesmen.)


King list Akrotiti Culture
(c.10,000 - 9200 BC)

The Akrotiri phase covers hunter-gatherer appearances which seem to have been fitful, arriving and leaving as conditions warranted, and then not returning at all.

King list Early Aceramic Neolithic
(c.8200 - 7000 BC)

The Aceramic Neolithic on Cyprus differed greatly from other contemporary societies in Anatolia and the Levant, showing no signs of contact between the two.

King list Khirokitia Culture
(c.7000 - 5800 BC)

This culture arose from a Pre-Pottery Neolithic B original in Anatolia following a long settlement process on the island which started with hunter-gatherers.

King list Sotira Culture
(c.5000 - 4000 BC)

The Sotira culture filled the gap left by the abandonment of Khirokitia culture sites, apparently forming about two centuries after the first influx of pottery onto the island.

King list Erimi Culture
(c.4000 - 2500 BC)

The Erimi began one of Cyprus' longest lasting archaeological cultural periods, with copper being used across the island and trade links being developed.

King list Philia Culture
(c.2500 - 1600 BC)

The Philia culture was representative of a new phase of settlement on Cyprus, probably one which involved Indo-European arrivals via Anatolia.

King list Late Bronze Age
(c.1600 - 1050 BC)

The Late Bronze witnessed the end of Minoan influence on the island and the beginning of Mycenaean (Achaean) influence, and city states.

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