PAST: Ancient Cyprus

Cultures in dialogue
Wed 31-10-2012 - Sun 10-03-2013

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily
and Sardinia, a fertile place with mild climate, good natural arbours and rich mineral resources. Due to these favourable conditions, it attracted human populations from as early as the 10th millennium BC. Since then, it has been inhabited continuously, producing an exceptionally rich archaeological record with considerable cultural achievements and evidence of interaction with neighbouring areas.

Cyprus, a meeting place

Cultural contacts and exchanges were of major importance for ancient Cyprus. Located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, the island was always a meeting place for people and ideas coming across the sea. Influences from Greece, Anatolia, Egypt, and the Near East can be traced in almost every aspect of ancient Cypriot culture, from language and writing to art and architecture. Reception, however, was not passive. Elements from different cultural traditions were frequently mixed with each other and with local idioms to produce hybrid forms and styles. This fascinating process is especially prominent in the spheres of art and religious expression.

The exhibition concept

How did these influences arrive at the island? Was it only through direct human contact, trade, migration, diplomacy, or even war? What was the impact of other types of interaction, e.g. artistic exchange, the diffusion of technological innovations, and the development of common elite ideologies across regions? What meaning did foreign ideas acquire in their new contexts? And how important were these for the identities of local people?

These were some of the questions addressed in the exhibition. Cyprus was one of the most prolific areas of cultural interaction in the ancient world. Its rich history offers us the opportunity to explore how ancient societies communicated and how they developed creative forms of cultural dialogue. Understanding these aspects is crucial in this era of multiculturalism and globalization, when traditional cultural barriers are challenged and interaction among people from different cultural backgrounds increases.

The structure of the exhibition

The exhibition was structured in six major thematic groups:

A. The history of archaeological research
B. The island
C. The sea
D. Society and people
E. The world of the dead
F. The world of the sacred

The making of

The making of 1
The making of 2
The making of 3

Exhibition organized by the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus,
on the occasion of Cyprus’ Presidency of the Council of the European Union.