During the 2nd millennium BC ceramic vessels from the Aegean and Cyprus traveled widely across the Eastern Mediterranean, often with common destinations. Yet, despite the numerous typological studies, a comparative examination of their quantities, repertoires, chronology, and deposition contexts is still lacking.

In a lecture, to be given by Nikolas Papadimitriou (Museum of Cycladic Art), on Monday, May 4, at the Museum of Cycladic Art, the results of such a comparative analysis will be presented and juxtaposed against the available evidence for maritime trade deriving from other archaeological sources.

It will be shown that while Cypriot wares were exported en masse to Egypt and the Levant from the later part of the MBA onwards, Aegean ceramic exports became common in the East only during the period of the Mycenaean palaces (LH IIIA2-B). Moreover, whereas Cypriot exports focused largely on small containers for liquids, the few Aegean exports to the East prior to the 14th c. BC comprised mainly drinking and pouring vessels. As far as mechanisms of trade and sea routes are concerned, it is interesting that while Aegean and Cypriot vessels co-existed in many Levantine contexts during the 14th and 13th c. BC, in Egypt, Aegean ceramics became common only when Cypriot trade with the Nile declined in the late 14th c. BC. Equally intriguing is the noted imbalance between the quantities of Aegean vessels found on Cyprus and the few Cypriot imports identified in the Aegean.

These remarks suggest that the level of participation in maritime exchange networks varied considerably between the two regions and also between periods. Such variation is partly attributed to geography (Cyprus being closer to Egypt and the Levant) but it may also imply differences in the character and structure of Minoan, Mycenaean and Cypriot economies. In order to explore such potential differences, we will examine briefly the evidence provided by the circulation of metals and other precious materials, the LBA shipwrecks, and a number of texts (from Mari, Amarna and Ugarit) referring to maritime exchanges. Two tentative conclusions will be drawn: a) that there were distinct networks of exchange for metals and luxurious objects on one hand, and for low-cost products, such as ceramic vessels (and their contents), on the other; and b) that Cyprus participated actively in both networks from a very early stage, by contrast to the Aegean which obtained full access only in the Mycenaean palatial period, whereas in earlier times (i.e. the period of Minoan palaces), contacts with the East were largely – if not exclusively – limited to high-level (possibly ‘royal’) exchanges.

Discussant will be Dr Alexander MacGillivray.

The lecture is part of the Cyprus Seminar, organized by the Museum of Cycladic Art.

The ‘Cyprus Seminar’ aims at bringing the public in closer contact with one of the major centres of cultural contact and amalgamation in the Eastern Mediterranean, while at the same time informing scholars and students about recent archaeological discoveries and new methodological trends.

Coordination: Nikolas Papadimitriou – Maria Tolis

Venue: Museum of Cycladic Art, 5th floor, 4 Neophytou Douka Street, Athens.