Pyla-Kokkokinokremos and the Political Geography of Cyprus in the Second Millennium BC

Dimitri Nakassis brought to my attention that Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project Alumnus, Michael Brown, had published an article in Annual of the British School at Athens on the political geography of southeast Cyprus in the Late Cypriot period. The article derives from his dissertation which focused on the settlement landscape of southeast Cyprus in the Late Bronze Age and has already informed our analysis of the Pyla littoral.

Brown beings with a discussion of the Gialias River valley that flows from the Troodos foothills north of Larnaka to the east coast at Enkomi. His article become more interesting for readers of this blog when he takes on the fraught task of undermining the political orthodoxy that the prominent, Late Bronze Age site of atop the Kokkinokremos plateau was somehow associated with the arrival of Aegean settlers.

Kokkinokremos 2007

Vassos Karageorghis, Pyla-Kokkinokremos’s most recent excavator, has tirelessly advanced this interpretation of the site and while scholars have generally met this analysis with skepticism, the impressive location of Kokkinokremos, its casemate style architecture, and seemingly abrupt appearance in the Late Cypriot IIC period (and equally abrupt disappearance around 1200 BC) has underscored the unusual nature of this site. From the perspective of political geography, its location is curious as it represents one of three large settlement sites on Larnaka bay alongside Hala Sultan Tekke and Bronze Age Kition. It remains difficult to understand the political or economic circumstances that allowed two contemporary settlement to develop very close to each other (Hala Sultan Tekke and Kition) and a third some 10 km to the east.  

Brown focused some significant attention on the area around Pyla-Kokkinokremos and followed our general arguments from various PKAP publications: the main asset available for the development of Pyla littoral and Pyla-Kokkinokremos was likely the presence of a now-infilled embayment that formed a natural harbor at the site. Moreover, for the Bronze Age Brown has pointed out that there is evidence for earlier settlement in vicinity of Pyla-Kokkinokremos at the sites of Steno, Pyla-Stavro, and Verghies. Each of these smaller, less monumental sites, demonstrated a population who may have already availed themselves to some of the environmental assets of the region. 

For Brown, the catalyst for the development of the monumental site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos was the maritime connections available through the natural embayment at the base of the plateau. Without entirely dismissing site’s fortified character, he gently suggests that the casemate wall was more architecturally imposing than militarily robust. There is evidence – albeit unpublished and only obliquely mentioned in this article (“although possibly not an uninterrupted ‘fortification’”) – that the casemate walls had openings to the exterior of the settlement. Brown noted that this would not have detracted from the appearance of the walls at the site, but would have reduced their quality as fortification. Perhaps, then, the wall around Kokkinokremos was more of a mark of civic identity in the region and its orientation toward the sea.

The maritime orientation of the site perhaps indicated strong connections with the Levant. Brown concludes his article with a discussion of Alashiya, a word that might refer to part of Cyprus in Syrian and Babylonian texts. While not all scholars agree that Alashiya refers to Cyprus, Alashiya was noted as a source of copper. Brown offers the interesting observation that the site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos is only 10 km from the copper mining area around Troulli which was exploited at least as late as the Roman period and maybe as early as the Bronze Age. Perhaps, then, the location of Kokkinokremos allowed the community to engage productively with metallurgical resources, avoid the concentration of economic and political power at Kition and Hala Sultan Tekke.

Brown’s article summarizes a raft of interpretations of the Pyla littoral that both developed during and informed the interpretation of this region that will appear in the monograph describing our work in the wider Pyla microregion. It is good to see some of Michael’s work in print and I hope we can incorporate citations to this article in our volume. 

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