An archaeological expedition from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden reported an exciting discovery: the discovery of underground tombs in Cyprus. The researchers used magnetometry to identify the mysterious chambers, which turned out to be “royal tombs” full of luxurious artifacts. These tombs are located outside the Bronze Age trading metropolis, Hala Sultan Tekke. This discovery gives us a deeper understanding of the history and culture of ancient Cyprus.
Hala Sultan Tekke, on the southern coast of Cyprus, on the shores of Larnaca Salt Lake, is an important Muslim shrine, revered as the final resting place of Umm Haram, the father of the Prophet Muhammad. The site has a rich history connected with the copper trade between 1500 B.C. and 1300 B.C. But with the recent discovery of royal tombs in Cyprus, we can learn more about the ancient elite that controlled copper production and trade on the island.
The Swedish Cederberg Expedition, which has been excavating at Hala Sultan Tekke since 2010, had previously discovered chamber tombs with valuable inventory. However, the newly discovered tombs are of particular significance because “more than 500 grave goods of excellent quality” were found in them. This discovery provides us with a unique glimpse into the life and luxury of Cyprus’ ancient elite.
The collection of tombs was discovered near a 50 hectare Bronze Age city. Researchers used magnetometers to identify stone structures and artifacts up to two meters below ground level. They found chambers up to 4 by 5 meters in size, accessed through a narrow passageway from the surface.
In these tombs they found many luxurious objects decorated with precious metals, stones, ivory and high quality ceramics. Some were the beautifully preserved skeletons of women surrounded by ceramic vessels, jewelry and bronze mirrors. The remains of one-year-old children and ceramic toys were found next to the women.
It is interesting to note that some precious materials, such as gold and ivory inlays, were mined in Egypt, and blue lapis lazuli, carnelian and turquoise in Afghanistan, India and the Sinai Peninsula. The pieces of amber found in the tombs in Cyprus came from the Baltic region. This indicates that the ancient Cypriots had extensive trade connections and access to luxurious materials.
Most of the ceramic vessels were made in Greece but some were imported from Turkey, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. High quality bronze weapons inlaid with ivory were also found in the tombs, and a seal in a gold frame was made of hematite with the names of gods and rulers.
This discovery not only extends our knowledge of the ancient history of Cyprus, but also emphasizes its importance as a center of trade and copper production. We can see how the ancient elites in Cyprus lived and honored their dead, as well as what materials and objects were of special value to them.